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RECENT STUFF- F

 

(1442) WHAT ABOUT THE ARIZONA LAW?  This week Arizona passed one of the most restrictive immigration laws in the nation. Many have opposed the new law; there is so much speculation by the media that it’shard to get to the truth. I personally would be against any law that made a U.S. citizen have to show his birth papers or be detained. But I also understand the major border problem that Arizona and the other Mexico/AmericanBorder States have to deal with; I live in Texas, one of these states. Last night I caught an interesting interview on the Rachel Maddow show, she had on some guy from a group that supposedly had something to do with crafting the new law. I never heard of the group before but they seem to be one of the right leaning groups that at times espouse things that can be taken as racist. The interesting thing was Rachel’s staff looked up all sorts of past statements and beliefs of people associated with the group; she then grilled the representative on the air. The problem was she found past statements that held to the belief that some races of people are more ‘evolved’ than others, statements that said some humans possibly have a better learning capacity than others. And she also brought out those who held to the belief that it would be better for humanity as a whole if we did not encourage the ‘lesser groups’ to breed! What Rachel did not realize is she was quoting to the tee many of the beliefs of social evolution. At one point she brought out a picture from a magazine associated with the group, the title of the article was ‘Homo Erectus walks among us’ it actually showed a picture of a half black/ape like being. In essence Rachel was rightfully condemning social Darwinism, a belief that she personally holds to! I have written on this before and don’t want to re teach the whole subject, suffice it to say that many have warned that these racist views of evolution are extremely dangerous, but if a person truly believes in Darwin’s theory, then the logical conclusion is yes- there are races on the planet that are less advanced than others- you can’t get around it, evolutionary theory breeds racism. I like the Rachel Maddow show, and like most North Eastern liberals they are usually able to see the faults and racist tendencies of the right, but are totally blind to their own racist views. I personally am weary of any law that puts people under suspicion because of their race; whether it be White, Hispanic, Black or any other group. If the federal govt. did not drop the ball on immigration and border security then Arizona would not have been pushed into what looks to be a bad law, I hope that we can come to a fair solution to the immigrationproblem. For the record I am pro immigrant, I have said this before and want to be up front about it. I take the Catholic view onimmigration; I side with treating the immigrants with mercy and grace. I know there are legitimate arguments on both sides of this issue; Ijust wanted to be upfront about where I stand.

 

(1443) NOW THE LORD HAD SAID UNTO ABRAM, GET THEE OUT OF THY COUNTRY AND FROM THY KINDRED AND FROM THY FATHERS HOUSE, UNTO A LAND THAT I WILL SHOW THEE. AND I WILL MAKE OF THEE A GREAT NATION AND I WILL BLESS THEE AND MAKE THY NAME GREAT AND YOU WILL BE A BLESSING- Gen 12:1-2. I think for the next few days I will try and cover some key verses in both the old and new testaments that deal with the doctrine of justification by faith. I covered this subject in my Romans, Galatians, Hebrews [chapter 11] studies; and of course the doctrine of believing in Jesus and ‘being saved’ is found in the gospel of John study and the Acts study. But for the most part the main verses on the subject are these few in Genesis and the key chapters from Romans [3-4] and Galatians [2-4]. The doctrine simply means that God has chosen to justify [declare legally righteous] all those who have faith in Christ. There are many varied ways that Christian communions deal with the whole process of salvation, some churches are what you would call Sacramental [they believe in the process of God using the sacraments to administer grace to the soul of the believer, and that thru these sacraments, mixed with faith, believers become justified] and others hold more closely to the Pauline idea of faith being the actual mechanism that God uses to justify [which is my personal view]. Many modern Protestants who strongly disagree with the sacramental churches [Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican] fail to see that most of the reformers embraced some form of sacramentalism along with their belief in justification by faith. Luther being the strongest example; his embracing of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist[body, blood, soul and divinity] caused him to split from the great Swiss reformer, Ulrich Zwingli, and Luther believed Zwingli to be damned because he rejected the body of Christ! So for today’s ‘neo-reformed’[the resurgence among Calvinism in our day] to be so quick to condemn many other types of Christians [Like those who follow Tom Wright] these are not ‘being fair’ to the broad system of belief that many of the great reformers held to. Okay, the above verse begins the journey between God and Abraham, thru a series of events thru out Abraham’s life God will reveal himself to Abraham, and at those times Abraham has a choice to either believe the promises of God to him- or reject them. These promises center around God telling Abraham that he will have a future dynasty of children that will bless the whole earth. In this dynasty there will be a special son that comes out of the tribe of Judah [Jesus] and he will be the promised seed to whom the promises were made [Galatians 3,4]. Paul the apostle will use the great father of the faith, Abraham, to convince the Jewish people that God justifies people by faith, and not by the works of the law. Paul goes to these past historic events [Gen 12, 15] and shows his fellow Jews that God did indeed justify Abraham [count him righteous] when he believed in the promise made to him by God [Gen 15]. Paul says ‘see, God justified Abraham before he was circumcised, therefore justification [being legally made right with God] is by faith and not by the keeping of the law’. This argument from Paul is simple, yet masterful. His Jewish audience knew these stories well, they just never ‘saw’ what Paul was seeing; once he broke thru ‘the veil’ [Corinthians] that blinded their hearts from the truth, then they could not escape the reality of what he taught them- these cultural stories of father Abraham would never be the same again. As I progress over the next few days I want to note that when we get to the book of James, we will be looking at a different type of justification than what Paul focused on. James will use the great event from Abraham’s life, the offering up of his son Isaac on the altar [Gen 22] as the event to define justification from his view. Many reformed do not fully see what James is saying, in my view. This type of ‘bible study’ [the type where we try and make everything fit our view] is common among many good men, but it fails to see that the scriptures come to us more in the sense of a portable library of books that cover the various perspectives of the time. Now, I am not advocating the view that the scriptures err, or that the bible has ‘competing theologies’ what I am saying is James use of the word ‘justification’ is actually a different use than what Paul means when he uses the Genesis 15 example to explain justification. Instead of trying to reconcile James with Paul by saying ‘all James means is the faith that saves has works’, which is limited indeed, we should leave room for seeing how James is coming to the table from a different point of view. James being one of the lead apostles at the Jerusalem council from Acts 15, and his defense of the importance of works from the strong Jewish background. I think Hebrews 11 actually deals with this subject [go read my commentary on the chapter to see where I’m coming from]. Okay, let’s leave off for now- go read the studies I just mentioned, familiarize yourself with the key chapters and will do some more tomorrow.

 

[comment on Ben Witherington’s site] I like it Ben; one short comment- I see Jesus doing healings on the Sabbath as a direct challenge to the religious authorities of the day, not just because the need arose. He was showing them that ‘Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath’ I see it more as being a purposeful act.  God bless,  John

 

(1444) AND HE TOOK HIM OUTSIDE AND SHOWED HIM THE STARS AND SAID ‘LOOK AT THEM, CAN YOU NUMBER THEM’ AND THE LORD SAID ‘SO SHALL YOUR OFFSPRING BE’ AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED IN GOD AND HE CREDITED IT TO HIS ACCOUNT AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. Genesis 15:5-6 [my paraphrase] As we journeyed from chapter 12, where God made the initial promise to Abraham, a few things occurred; God separated Abraham from his nephew Lot. The kings attacked Sodom and took Lot captive, Abraham took his men and went and freed Lot. The king of Sodom tries to reimburse Abraham for his good deed, Abrahamturns him down. Abraham also went into Egypt and lied about Sarah his wife, out of fear he told the Egyptians she was his sister [so they wouldn’t kill him to get his wife] and the king takes her and later rebukes Abraham for lying. So he returns to the special place named Bethel [house of God] and regroups. Now in chapter 15 Abraham has some doubts, God gave Abraham this great promise of many children; but he has no kids yet! Abraham is getting up in years [around 75] and so is Sarah his wife; Abraham asks the Lord to consider counting his servant as his heir, this was done in those days. The Lord turns him down and says ‘no, one born from you will be the heir’ and this is just one stop of many along the path of Abraham’sdoubts. Yes, he comes up with another winner down the road [like having a kid with the maid!] But this promise in chapter 15, andAbraham’s response by faith, is the actual text Paul uses in Galatians and Romans to show that being justified comes by faith, and not by keeping the law. I want to stress, this example from Abrahams life was real, he really was justified in Gods eyes by believing in the future promise of having a great dynasty; like I said in the last post, he was believing in Jesus when he believed in the promise. In the next few days I will try and cover some key verses in Galatians and Romans, but most of all I want you to see how God forgives people, makes them legally just in his sight, not because of what they have done- trying to do good, be a church goer, trying hard to keep the 10 commandments; all of these things are noble efforts, but they don’t earn God’s forgiveness, but God’s forgiveness is based on the grounds that Jesus died for our sins and rose again. All who believe in this promise are described as ‘the children of God, by faith in Jesus Christ’. Many of the Jewish people looked to Abraham as a great hero of the faith, Paul shows them thru these examples that all who believe, whether Jew or Gentile, become the ‘children of Abraham’ by faith, it’s not an ethnic/cultural thing anymore. If only the Muslims, Arabs and all other groups heard this message from the church; how liberating would this be! But we too often present an ethnic message based upon Old Testament verses that call certain Middle Eastern states ‘the enemies of Israel/God’. These views, not being rightfully filtered thru the message of the Cross, make it very difficult to evangelize the Arab world, after all would you want to embrace a religion whose book said ‘thus saith the Lord, all you white Europeans are a stench in my nostrils’! But because of our unwillingness to present a gospel based solely on faith, and not the ethnic backgrounds of individuals, we have reduced the message of the Cross from the wide net that the apostles used when presenting the message of Jesus- Lets declare with certainty ‘yes, we are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ’ Amen.

 

(1445) WAS NOT ABRAHAM OUR FATHER JUSTIFED BY WORKS WHEN HE OFFERED ISAAC HIS SON UPON THE ALTAR- YE SEE THEN HOW THAT BY WORKS A MAN IS JUSTIFED AND NOT BY FAITH ONLY- WAS NOT RAHAB THE HARLOT JUSTFIED BY WORKS?  James 2:22-26. Okay, in Genesis chapter 22 we read the story of God telling Abraham to offer up his son Isaac upon the altar. Abraham obeys God and at the last minute the Lord stops him; but the angel of the Lord says because he did this, that now God knows he can be trusted and God will fulfill his promise to him. James uses this story to define what he means when he speaks of ‘being justified’ in Gods sight. I believe there have been many noble attempts at trying to reconcile this passage with the passages in Romans and Galatians where Paul specifically says ‘a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith’. Paul clearly teaches us that men cannot be justified by the works of the law; James says ‘see how men are justified by works’. The explanations I have heard go like this ‘James was simply saying the faith that saves is an active living faith’ ‘James is simply saying men are justified in the sight of other men by their works’ ‘James is simply saying true faith has works along with it’ while all of these things are true, they seem to not adequately deal with the 3 passages I quoted at the top. James says that when Abraham offered up his son on the altar that the scripture was fulfilled that said ‘he believed in God and he counted it to him for righteousness’. James is fully aware of the Genesis 15 promise to Abraham, the key verse Paul uses to define justification by faith; it’s just James is speaking about the process thru out life where men actually become righteous in practice, which is a result of being legally made righteous by faith. In essence when James says ‘see how men are justified by works’ he is describing the act of God being pleased with us, God having the right to say ‘yes, you obeyed me son, and I call you righteous in my eyes because you did obey me’. This process can be defined as being ‘justified by works’ while not contradicting Paul’s use of the term ‘justification by faith’. Tome it is quite clear that James is saying more than just ‘real faith has works’ no, he is saying that the legal/forensic act of justification by faith [Gen. 15] leads to a life of actually doing just things [obeying God- Gen. 22] and when the legally justified believer obeys God, in a sense he is justified in Gods sight [not men’s!] by these works. Now, this does not mean men are ‘saved’ by doing good works, in the sense that Paul uses ‘saved’ but James is saying that when believers do good works, these works cause a response from God that can be defined as ‘being justified in Gods sight by our good works’ a totally different theme than Paul. This passage has been a difficult one for many years, Luther battled with it and at one point called James epistle a ‘straw epistle’ he doubted itscanonicity. The Catholic Church used this very passage in their council at Trent to refute what they saw as Luther’s neglect of good works. I have had Mormons and other various Christian groups use this passage in defending certain aspects of their churches; this passage is well worn in the annals of Christian apologetics, I think the explanation that I just gave is the best one; the other efforts that have been made to explain this passage have some truth to them, but at the end of the day they don’t fully explain the clear text of the above passages. I think this explanation explains them.

 

(1446) ‘Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no man be justified’ ‘I do not frustrate the grace of God, if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain’ ‘But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for the just shall live by faith’ Galatians 2:16, 21, 3:11.  Okay, these verses [as well as the book of Romans] strongly show us the New Testament doctrine of being justified when we believe in Christ. To many people this idea seems contrary to the normal belief that being a good person, doing good, going to ‘church’ trying to keep the 10 commandments; these are the normal ideas on what people think they need to do to ‘be saved’; yet the apostle shows us that our redemption is solely based on Christ’s death for us. He even says ‘if righteousness [being made just legally] comes by keeping the law, then Christ died in vain’! It almost seems strange for this doctrine to be found in the bible! Yet it is the basis of New Testament Christianity, which is based on a New Covenant [in contrast to the old one, which was the law] this New Covenant is grounded on the death and resurrection of Jesus; as Paul says ‘if Christ died for all of us, then we are all dead- so let those who now live, live unto God’. When I first became a Christian and started reading the bible, I saw these promises as saying ‘all who believe in Jesus are saved’ but I noticed how many believers taught a type of conversion that watered down this doctrine; some said ‘yes, you accept the Lord by faith’ and they seemed to add all types of steps that needed to be ‘done in faith’ in order to be a true believer. Whether it was an elaborate evangelical scheme that eventually led to kneeling at an altar in some church, or whether it was the exact memory and dating of the day you asked ‘Jesus into your heart’. Now I’m sure there are many fine believers who have come to the journey this way, my point is not to doubt their conversion; but the more I became aware of these many ideas, the more I studied the scriptures to see if faith really meant ‘faith’. My own conversion came from truly seeing the promises in John’s gospel on believing and having eternal life. It was more of an awakening, sort of God breaking thru and revealing grace to me. Now, my conversion was rather drastic, it wasn’t a slow coming to the Lord, but it didn’t fit the sinner’s prayer scheme that many of my Baptist friends embraced. I also noticed how many of my friends, after hearing the evangelical version for so long, would then ‘get saved’ for real! They would be convinced by some well meaning evangelist that their initial conversion was shot thru with holes, then they would sort of fabricate a ‘morelegitimate’ conversion. Even strong believers would do this. So then you had to deal with the fact that these fellow believers, who were truly walking with the Lord for a while, were really lost all along! This process struck fear intothe hearts of all the other church members, after all how many of them were deceived too? So I began to study the bible to see if bible conversions really meant this often elaborate schema. One thing I noticed is all of these verses on being justified by faith were based on the main promise to Abraham from God, which consisted of God taking Abraham outside and telling him ‘see the stars, your offspring will be like this’ and it actually was a passive act of belief, not some act of Abraham doing something, that is defined as the day God justified Abraham. Then I ran across Acts chapter 10, and this story shows Peter preaching to the gentiles and they simply believed the message and the Spirit fell on them- Peter was not expecting a conversion, they were surprised. This also was a passive type conversion. In the letter we are quoting from in this post [Galatians] Paul describes it like this ‘He that works miracles among you, does he do it by the works of the law or the HEARING OF FAITH’ Paul will describe their conversion as a point in time where they heard and had faith, again another seeming violation of the active conversion model. The main point being that yes, there are cases where the conversion is reduced to the simple act of believingin the gospel when it’s first preached. To be fair, in the New Testament the outward ‘act’ that usually took place on ‘conversion day’ was water baptism, so if we were totally honest with ourselves we could say that water baptism was the altar call of the New Testament, but the fact is faith itself is identified as the basis of our justification, faith in Christ.

 

(1447) THE BARNES AND NOBLE JESUS?  WAS B.P. A GOD CAUSED DISASTER?Yesterday I saw my recent issue of Christianity Today had arrived, I planned on reading some news papers and catching up on the weeks past events; but instead I spent about an hour going thru the mag. Found it interesting to see many of the ruffled feathers among the elites of the day. BrianMcLarenfinally responded to ScotMcKnight’s criticism of his most recent work; Brian defended himself as not being antievangelical. Tom Wright had a book review done by Michael Horton [that could be trouble!] but Horton was pretty fair, and pointed out how Wright pictures the Reformers as neglecting virtue and morality on the altar of faith. Horton exposes this weakness in Wright, surely many of the reformers [particularly the Puritan strain] emphasized virtue and morality. Found it interesting that some of these authors responded to recent critiques in a way that seemed to indicate that the critics served a good purpose; it caused the authors to have to defend themselves and make statements saying they were closer to the evangelical faith than their critics indicated. As I read the back and forth between these fine men, I couldn’t help but wonder what practical effect all this is having on the church at large. Are they simply hashing things out amongst the book store crowd [of which I am one] and in the end the church at large is preaching/believing in a Jesus who would probably be uncomfortablehanging out at the Barnes and Noble? Okay, this week my governor said the B.P. oil spill in the gulf was an act of God; the critics got on him and he had to defend himself. It does seem strange that a failed oil rig can be blamed on the Most High. The broader question being, how do we explain the real natural disasters of the world?In the 18th century [1755 to be exact] believers from all over the world were in church celebrating All Saints Day, just off the coast of Portugal a major earthquake struck, thousands of believers who were attending services in the capital city of Lisbon were crushed under the collapsing buildings. Many fled to the coast and were swept up in the tsunami; it was a major disaster for the time. One of Christianities critics, Voltaire, used this event to refute the popular notion that God was sovereign over allthings and good as well. Voltaire, who is often accused ofbeing an atheist [inactuality he was a theist- believed in a God but rejected Christianity] found evil in the world as proof of God being absent from the daily affairs of men, a common accusation from atheists/agnostics. How do believers explain these types of events? Did God purposely cause the earthquake to happen on that day, knowing that all the worshippers would be in church that morning? God of course knows all things, and nothing happens outside of his sovereignty. But we also live in a world that is a result of mans choice to sin and plunge the creation into a cursed situation [Genesis, Romans] so thingshappen in the world that are a result of the curse that came upon creation when man sinned. Things like the B.P. spill are obviously not God caused disasters, but we also can’t blame every natural disaster upon God. True, sometimes they can be a divine act of judgment [Noah’s flood] and there certainly are scriptures that speak about God revealing himself and his wrath thru these types of events, but we also should not discount the reality that some events happen as a result of mans failure to properly take care of the creation that God put under his dominion. The fact that God is not directly involved in all these types of events does not mean that he is removed from the scene, but we also need to be careful when we blame God for things that are clearly not his fault.

 

(1448) ‘Now we know that what things so ever the law saith, it saith to them that are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law shall no person become just in God’s sight: for by the law comes the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is manifested, even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all that believe’ Romans 3:19-22.  Once again Paul makes clear that people become right in God’s eyes when they believe in his son, the attempt at becoming right with God by obeying the law is futile. Why? Because that was never the intended purpose of the law. God gave the law to reveal to man his sin; when men would try to live up to the standard, they would fall short and realize their need for a savior and then would turn to Christ. Paul says before the law came [before he personally became aware of it] he was without guilt, but once he realized the statutes of God and saw Gods holy standard; he said that sin in him revived and he died. Or the law caused a reaction in him that made his sinfulnature appear to be much worse than he originally thought. Paul said in Galatians that the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, but after faith has come we are no longer under a schoolmaster. He said ‘wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions till the seed should come [Jesus=seed, offspring] to whom the promise was made’. Paul taught that the purpose of the law was to reveal to man his own sin, that there never was a law given that a man could obey in order to become saved. The other day I googled the ministry name and was glad to see that some Catholic friends have been posting our site on Catholic sites. Great! My goal is not to convince fellow Christians to change churches, or become Protestant; my goal is to accurately teach the truth to all who want to hear. To some of our Catholic friends these verses seem unbelievable, that is they might seem too good to be true. I want to assure you that the Catholic churchbelieves the things that I just taught! But like allChristian churches, sometimes we don’t effectively communicate these truths to the people. Many people do not realize that the current Pope, Benedict, is one of the most able theologians that the church has had in this office. John Paul the 2nd was a great man, don’t get me wrong. But he was more of a philosopher/humanist charismatic figure; Benedict is more of a teacher. Why mention this? Because you will notice that the last year or so the Pope has made an extra effort to teach Paul’s epistles and to focus more on a strong Christology than in past years. This Pope has made efforts to bridge the gap between Protestants and Catholics; he also has come closer to the Protestant view of certain passages that speak of justification by faith. A few years ago a jointstatement was made that many Protestants saw as amajor breakthrough in this very area. I want to assure my Catholic readers, yes- it sounds too good to be true, but it is! Even your churchbelieves it! That is we all believe that we are freely saved by Gods grace that comes to us thru the Cross of Christ. I would be dishonest to say there are no more difficult doctrinal issues between the great Christianconfessions, but I can say for a surety ‘we are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ’. Note- I am not saying the Catholic church does not believe in the importance of keeping the 10 commandments, they believe that all Christians should keep the commandments.

 

(1449) ‘What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein’? Romans 6:1 Being we are just hitting on the theme of justification by faith, and because I already did an entire study on Romans, I will skip over chapter 4; but I want to mention that chapter 4 covers a lot of important material about Abraham and the fact that God justified him prior to his circumcision, Paul uses thisillustration to show us that being accepted with God transcends ethnic/racial lines. Many of the Jewish people of Paul’s day [including Paul’s former life!] saw acceptance with God along the lines of ethnic/cultural relations; if you were part of the Jewish nation and partook of all the rights and privileges of ethnic Israel, then you were seen as being accepted with God. But Paul’s messageof justification by faith applies to ‘all the seed’ [offspring] not just to those who have become circumcised and have joined into ethnic Israel. So these points are important to understand. But now let’s get to the above verse. Paul will emphatically teach that the message of free grace does not mean we have a license to sin; he teaches this in ALL of his letters. It’s easy to focus in on the justification by faith themes [which we are doing in this study] and overlook the moral teachings of the apostle. Paul will teach ethics, not from a legal/law grounding [obey the 10 commandments] but from a new resurrection reality. He states that those of us who have been joined [baptized] into Christ have identified with him in death; the old man [sinfulnature] has died along with Jesus and has been buried. Now that we are alive with him we live a new life unto God. Paul will say ‘shall we sin because we are now under grace and not under law’ and notice, he does not appeal to the law, instead he says ‘no, because whoever you serve [sin or righteousness] you become a slave to it, and if you are a slave to sin you will die’. Paul appeals to the reality of sin and death as still being a real price to be paid by those who reject Jesus. It’s important to see this theme from Paul, it backs up his teaching that believers are not under the law. In the next day or so I will wrap up this study; if I had the time and space I could go thru all the moral mandates we find in Paul’s letters, and it would be an important thing to emphasize. It’s just this is not the purpose of this study. But I would be remiss if I did not at least hit a few key scriptures from the apostle himself that show us that he certainly was not teaching lawlessness; he himself stressed the need for believers living a holy life. Its just the grace to live it comes from the power of the Cross, not from the law.

 

(1450) BUT NOW WE ARE DELIVERED FROM THE LAW, THAT BEING DEAD WHEREIN WE WERE HELD; THAT WE SHOULD SERVE IN NEWNESS OF SPIRIT, AND NOT IN THE OLDNESS OF THE LETTER. Romans 7:6 I think this will be a good chapter to end our series on justification by faith. Paul uses one of my favorite analogies to describe the new relationship we have in Christ; he says a woman, as long as her husband is alive, is bound by the law to her husband. If she goes out and sleeps with another man, she is convicted by the law and is committing adultery. But if the husband dies, then the same act of being with another man [in marriage] is no longer called adultery, by virtue of the death of the husband she has become free from the law that condemned her. Now Paul teaches that we too have become dead to the law thru the death of Christ, so that we should be married to another; even to him who died and rose again! I have often said it’s sad that believers in our day know all the catch phrases, they are familiar with the pop Christian culture verses and all, but these very important themes are often overlooked. Would to God that all believers were familiar with this scripture, walking around in life quoting ‘we have become dead to the old law thru Christ, we are now alive with him and are married to him who rose from the grave’. Thru out this chapter Paul once again shows that the law is holy and good, but its purpose was to arouse in us our sinful nature in order to reveal to us the need for a savior. The old way of life for Paul was one of condemnation and never being able to do enough to appease his sinful conscience, when he saw the realities of the new covenant he was delivered from that old mindset and began to see a new way to approach God, a free liberating walk with God, apart from the daily grind of trying in his own power to become righteous. Many good believers struggle with this for years, and there really is no trick or gimmick to the spirit filled life. Paul will go on and teach the need for self discipline; he said he ‘beat his body to bring in into subjection’ he obviously was not espousing a Christian walk that never had struggles again. But he was telling us that there is a fundamental difference between approaching the Christian life thru a legalistic mindset, or thru the freedom that comes from Christ. In conclusion we have learned that right from the early days of Abraham God had revealed to us that there was coming a day when men would approach God upon the grounds of faith, and not by works; that God included this great promise in the bible since the beginning; it was not an afterthought! Paul showed us that this new way of life was ordained of God before the law was given; it just took a couple of thousand years to get to the promised ‘seed’. Paul showed us that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised child, and now that he has come we are no longer under the schoolmaster [law] but we have been freed from the old law thru the death of Christ, we are now married to another, even to him who rose from the grave- AMEN!

 

(1451) CHRISTIAN-MUSLIM BELIEFS- As I did the study on Justification by faith I hit a few verses that I felt were vital for our day; things that said Gods kingdom is not based on ethnic/racial lines, but it is based on faith in Jesus Christ. One of the major divisions between Christians and Muslims is Islam teaches that Jesus was a prophet from God, but they reject his deity. They claim that the Christian church fell into apostasy and over the centuries heresy was introduced thru the councils and creeds of the church. They believe that in the 7th century God restored true monotheism [belief in one God] thru the prophet Muhammad and that Jesus [Isa] agreed with this. In the 19th century you had the rise of religious liberalism and many theologians espoused a belief that ran along these same lines; many taught that the early message of Jesus became distorted thru the over intellectualizing of the faith, and that Greek philosophy and Latin legal minds [Tertullian] ‘extended’ the faith to parameters that went far beyond the teachings of Christ. The Muslim scholars saw this as proof that they were right all along, after all these Christian scholars were basically saying the same thing! And then within the past 30 years or so you had the rise of historical Jesus studies, and men like John Dominic Crossan [Jesus seminar] would basically deny much of the gospels. They used a skewed method of determining what was real or fake, and when all was said and done you basically had a few verses from Johns gospel that were deemed true as well as a host of other ‘questionable’ sayings of Jesus from the other gospels. Why was this an important development for the rejecters of Christ’s deity? John’s gospel is the strongest teaching in the New Testament on the deity of Christ. We call this ‘Logos Christology’ John’s gospel teaches us that in the beginning was the word [Logos in Greek] and the word was with God and the word was God. So you have a distinction between the word [Jesus] and God, and at the same time the word is described as God. So to be fair about it, the deity of Jesus was not a latter development that was spawned out of the Greek/Latin mind, but was a part of Christianity right from the start. Grant it that the later creeds and councils [4th century Nicene, 5th century Chalcedon] did use some technical language to distinguish between the nature of God and Jesus, but the teaching of Christ’sdeity is found within the body of the New Testament. Islam teaches that Jesus was born from a virgin, and that he was a prophet sent from God- isn’t that enough? No, they also teach that at the Cross another person died in Jesus place and that Jesus never died and rose again, this my friends can never be accepted by true Christianity. I believe we as believers should respect Muslim people, we should not denigrate them or their religion- but to have an honest conversation we need to tell the truth. Jesus was given for the sins of the whole world, he was God in the flesh dwelling among man- he died, was buried and rose from the grave. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

 

(1452) IMPUTATION- Okay, I am going to get a little technical today. Being we just came off of both a study of Galatians and a series on justification by faith, I want to hit a little on the doctrine of imputation. During the time of the reformation one of the areas of disagreement between Protestants and Catholics was the doctrine of justification by faith. Those of you who have read my studies realize that in this area I am Protestant, but my explanation on James chapter 2 [read the Justification by Faith study] leaves room for more agreement between Catholics and Protestants than we have had in the past. One of the other points of contention is the reformed position on God imputing the righteousness of Christ to the believer. Some Protestants teach it in a way that is not fully defined in scripture. Some teach that the righteous life of Christ, as a separate transaction from the sin bearing work of the Cross, is ‘imputed’ to the believer and this righteous account from Jesus is now counted towards us. I am not totally in disagreement with this doctrine, but some seem to teach it in a way that misreads some of the passages used to defend it. In my Romans study [chapter 5] I explained it somewhat. In Romans, Corinthians and Philippians we read verses that say ‘we are now saved by his life’ ‘we are made the righteousness of God thru Christ’ ‘thru the obedience of one man [Jesus] many are made righteous’- these verses teach us that the obedient life of Jesus qualified him to be the sin bearer of the sins of the world; he took our sins because he was sinless. He also lives at the right hand of God and is continually ‘saving’ us by his life. His obedience ‘unto death’ is also referred to in some of these passages- that is he obeyed the Father and went to the Cross for us- ‘thru one man’s obedience many are made righteous’ ‘he was obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross’ [Philippians]. Some seem to have confused some of these verses by teaching that they are saying ‘the obedient life of Jesus is now credited to us’. In actuality these few examples are really not saying it in this way. To be fair we do have the verses that say we are made the righteousness of God in Jesus- that Jesus is made unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification, and of course my last study showed all the verses that speak of us being justified by faith. But technically it is not a clearly taught doctrine that the positive account of Christ’s righteousness is taken and put on our account. At least it isn’t as taught as clearly as the actual doctrine of justification by faith, and as I just showed you some of the verses that are used to teach it are being read in a particular way that might not be in keeping with the text. Why wade into this discussion, isn’t it true that we are made just in God’s eyes because Jesus lived a holy life and died for us? Yes. It’s just some areas that are not clearly defined in scripture should be left open for further discussion and thought. As of the time of this writing this area is one of contention between some reformed theologians and other Orthodox/Catholic/Anglican believers [Anglican scholar Tom Wright being one]. I do not totally reject the doctrine; I believe the righteous life of Christ was a requirement for him going to the Cross for us. And I do believe God makes us righteous as a free gift of God, as Luther said ‘an alien righteousness’ it’s just not taught as clearly as some reformed teachers have developed the doctrine, and we want to be honest when dealing with these issues. I know for some of you guys these types of posts are a little ivory tower, but for others these things are important as we strive for greater unity among the Christian faiths.

 

[1453] TURN US AGAIN OH GOD AND CAUSE THY FACE TO SHINE AND WE SHALL BE SAVED- Psalms. As I was reading in the Psalms I came across a passage that said ‘why God have you allowed the wall of protection to come down’. The psalm goes on and recounts God’s work in bringingIsrael out of Egypt and into the Promised Land; it says God took this vine from captivity and caused it to take root and its branches spread over the earth. And then God allowed her walls [protections/foundations] to fail. Last night I was watching the results of some of the elections across the nation. They showed how some politicians were rejected because of various flip flopping and stuff. They also showed a breaking scandal of some attorney general; he is running for higher office and for many years he presented himself as a Vietnam vet. He has said ‘when I served in Nam’ and stuff like that. News papers referred to his record as a Vietnam vet, and it was quite obvious that the man ran on a record of having been in Nam. Then it was found out that he never served in Vietnam; he was in the reserves stateside during the war. How did he explain this contradiction? He said he was taking full responsibility for this [sounds good] and then he said he will not let ‘a few misplaced words’ ruin his integrity. He said he meant to say things like ‘when I served [in the reserve, stateside] during the war’ and as he was questioned why he never corrected the many news stories about him being a Vietnam vet, he said he was not responsible for what the news reports. What’s the problem here? Okay, the man was caught lying, yes, like all of us he is a sinner and let a lie go on for too long. But in his apology, he said he was taking responsibility, while at the same time not admitting his sin. This is an example of what goes on over and over again in our great land. It’s not so much the fact that yes, people sin and have made mistakes; it’s just our continual unwillingness to accept the blame for our sins. Ergun Caner, the ex Muslim who is now a Christian and the president of Liberty University [Jerry Farwell’s bible college] has also been caught in a scandal where he has presented himself as a radical Muslim who was raised in Turkey and converted to Christianity in a radical way. But it has come out that though he was raised Muslim, he really grew up in Ohio [he lived in Turkey as a boy] and his conversion was not as radical as his testimony seemed to imply. He also seems to have misled people about his debating certainMuslim scholars, some people have looked into the situation and it seems as if he has not been honest about it. Okay, we have all made mistakes in life, and as a president of a bible school stuff like this can be damaging, but our response makes the difference between a successful future or one where ‘the hedge of protection is broken down’. God can, and does forgive all sins; but if we claim we are taking responsibility for our ‘misplaced words’ and then deny the fact that we lied, in essence we are not taking responsibility. God allowed the protections to come down around Israel because she accepted as normative things that were sinful, God would have continued to work with her, but she allowed sinful practices to become accepted in her midst. I do not see the hope of our nation being in the political realm, yet the continual dissembling that takesplace, over and over again, can’t go on without us as a people suffering for it. As of the time of this writing [5-2010] there are still many national/economic problems that we have to face; there is still a fear that the problems in the European currency [Euro] will have worldwide effects for the worse. We should not think that we can continue to do business as usual without the walls coming down; if we want God to ‘shine his face on us once again’ we can’t keep doing stuff like this and thinking it’s acceptable, it’s not.

 

[1454] ON INFANT BAPTISM- I have been listening to an interesting debate on infant baptism; it’s being held between two good scholars. I have said before that I do not believe in infant baptism, but I also understand the case made for it. Basically those who practice it believe that baptism is a sign of the new covenant, and like circumcision in the old covenant, it’s alright to baptize new borns under the new. The minister presenting the adult baptism only side did a good job, as did the one who advocated for infant baptism. The only problem with the argument from the ‘adult baptism’ advocate was at the end of his message he appealed to the great 16th century reformers [Luther, Calvin, etc.] and made the case that those who practice infant baptism are not in keeping with the reformers character in rejecting the ‘old papal heresies’. In fact the reformers accepted infant baptism and fought against those who rejected it. The most famous example being that of the Swiss reformer Ulrich Zwingli; he famously drowned the ‘Anabaptists’ [re-baptizers] for their unwillingness to baptize their new borns. The Anabaptists are sometimes called ‘the radical reformers’ they were a strain of believers who felt the reformers were still too bound by tradition, and they wanted a total return to the early practices of the church. And the centuries following would give rise to a whole host of various groups staking their claim on being the most accurate New Testament church. The point being that even though the minister who defended adult baptism only was standing on good biblical grounds, yet he used an example that was not totally accurate. It benefits all believers to be familiar with these arguments, if they are done in a spirit of friendship [which the above debate was done in] then they can help us progress along the lines of Christian unity. That is we still mayhold to our peculiar position, and at the same time see the other point of view. Too often we are only familiar with our own position.

 

[1455] ‘IN MY FATHERS HOUSE ARE MANY MANSIONS’ Jesus-  Yesterday I read a news story about a famous evangelist who is building a multimillion dollar mansion, 7 bathrooms- in home theatre, etc. The expose’ showed how the minister was doing it all with ministry funds and the title of the property will be in the name of the ministry. I am familiar with the man, even heard him speak in person once. He seems to be a good man, but he is a proponent of the prosperity gospel and he sees things like this to be in God’s will. Many of the ministriessupporters who were interviewed defended the man; they said it was fine for this to be done. I will not quote to you all the passages that tell us these things are not fine [just scroll thru the prosperity section and you will find them] but overall we need to be careful that we are not justifying our actions by ideas that are contrary to the main body of scripture. Peter warned the elders not to take the oversight of the ministry for financial gain; God rebuked the Pastors who said ‘we never have enough’ and they were feeding themselves and profiting from the flock. These themes are found all thru out scripture. Many times these types of ministries mean well, they just don’t realize what they are doing. But it is common to hear appeals from these types of ministries for funds, many times they appeal by ‘the word of the Lord’ for people to give ‘till it hurts’. The audience is told ‘if it’s not sacrificial, it’s not a real offering’. There are many elderly people who respond to these appeals who are on fixed income, and these widows mites are often funneled into the million dollar budgets that are used for many of these types of expenses. This my brothers ought not to be done, especially in the name of Jesus. I have hope for the church, and I believe many have been seeing things differently in these last few years- I thank God for it. We need to pray for the people of God at large, even those who are still doing these types of things. But I thank God that we are seeing these types of things happen less as time goes by.

 

[1456] THEY HAVE SAID COME AND LET US CUT THEM OFF FROM BEING A NATION- Psalms 83:4. During the time of the reformation in the 16th century you had various groups of Christians who felt the church lost her original purpose and purity, these believers sparked reform, that is they did not abandon all the previous creeds and councils of the church; they simply tried to bring God’s people back into shape. Because of this, most of the Christian denominations today have the same basic creeds and statements of faith that have come down to us from the early days. That is we have been able to maintain some sense of ‘national’ unity/cohesiveness even though we have many divisions. The enemies ofIsrael were not so much trying to wipe them all out; they were upset that Israel had achieved a national identity. When Gods people existed in Egypt, sure they were a thorn in the side of society at times, but they were still citizens of another people. In the New Testament Peter says we are a holy nation, a special people; that is the people of God right now belong to a kingdom made up of priests and kings [Revelation]. It is the enemy’s tactic to cause us to view ourselves as independent churches all doing good things for God, but still seeing each congregation as existing separately from the whole. In a sense the enemy has caused us to ‘stop seeing ourselves as a nation’ sure we still exist, and to be honest there are lots of us! But Like Israel in Egypt we too often are looked upon as a bunch of illegal aliens that the nation doesn’t know what in the heck to do with! Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating a theocracy [a govt. run by God] that is not a worldly/earthly one; but I am advocating that as believers, we should strive for a ‘national’ identity, that is we should appreciate all the great things that have happened and come down to us from the fathers of the past. We have sort of been given the baton and we need to run with it. But too often we don’t recognize that the baton is something that gets passed off to us, we are a living tapestry of people who together form this beautiful Joseph’s garment, the enemy would be happy if we simply lost this unifying identity. He doesn’t seem to care too much when we live in our own identities, when we lose the identity of a holy nation.

 

[1457] THE EYES OF THE LORD ARE UPON THE RIGHTEOUS AND HIS EARS ARE OPEN TO THEIR PRAYER- Psalms. The apostle Peter will quote thisPsalm in his epistle. The last few weeks we covered some verses on justification by faith; we also hit the book of James and spoke on ‘justification by works’. As we read thru the bible we find many passages where God says he hears the prayers of those who actually do what is right ‘God will not withhold any good thing from those who walk uprightly’ ‘the face of the Lord is against them that do evil’ over and over again, doing right works means something. In the New Testament Jesus speaks of us as candles, he says ‘who lights a candle and puts it under a basket? But you put a candle on a candleholder and it gives light to all those in the house’ then he goes on to say that we should let our ‘good deeds’ shine like the candle. Notice what Jesus means by saying ‘we shine’. He is not talking about fame or performance as we usually view it; but he is talking about the good deeds of social justice. In context our good works are the works of justice we do; defending the poor, reaching out to the hurting, speaking up for the voiceless. Jesus was not saying ‘we shine’ when we achieve fame, contrary to this he told us the least among us would be the greatest, have the most influence. A commonly used example is mother Theresa, most people have heard and are familiar with the nun who gave her life to help the poor in Calcutta, she spoke to kings and presidents thru out her life; yet she really worked in obscurity for many years, others made her famous, she did not seek it. God says when we do what is right he will work on our behalf, turn our enemies back; he says to Israel ‘if you only listened to me, obeyed my voice, then your peace would have been like a river and I would have done great things for you’ God wants us to do just things, to forsake sin and selfishness and pursue his face. It’s easy to equate ‘serving God’ with putting in the hours required ‘for ministry’. Thinking that if we preach, teach or do some other function, that we have met the weekly requirement for service; God wants our hearts, he seeks for those whose hearts are turned towards him. If we do what is right he will hold no good thing from us.

 

[1458] CONTACT! The other night I caught the movie Contact; I have seen it before but figured I’d re-watch it. The movie pits science against religion; the religious figure [Mathew Mconaughy] is talking to the scientific atheist [Jodie Foster] as she makes her case against God she asks the religious figure ‘are you familiar with Ockham’s Razor’ [wow, isn’t she smart!] and the ex-priest says ‘no, is it some sort of porno movie?’ and of course the atheist goes on to quote the famous saying. Ockham’s razor is the principle developed by William of Ockham that says when you have multiple solutions to a problem that the simplest answer is usually the correct one. Sounds good, what’s the problem? The problem is William of Ockham was indeed a Christian philosopher; he was a contemporary of Thomas Aquinas and John Duns Scotus. They all lived in the high middle ages [13th-14thcenturies]. So for Jodie Foster to have appealed to him while trying to make the point that religion and science don’t mix, well it would be like me debating someone on Halloween. I say it never existed as a pagan holiday; you insist it did! As we debate, I say ‘have you ever heard of the term trick or treat’ and you say ‘no, what’s that’. I then changed the channel to the news and they were doing a story on some scientist who supposedly invented synthetic DNA, they then gave the various statements from religious groups who were against it and thought it violated ethics. It was a replay of the same themes of the movie, pitting science against religion. Science and religion are not enemies, the scientific method was invented by the church, most of the greatest minds in science have been Christian [or religious] and even till this very day many of the great men of science are believers. At the end of the movie they gave a short dedication to Carl [Sagan]. Sagan was the famous atheist who said the universe is all there ever was and all there ever would be. The apostle Paul said ‘men chose to worship and serve the creation rather than the creator, therefore God gave them up to reprobate minds’. The other night I watched the special called ‘Hawking’s universe’ I don’t know why they called it Hawking’s, it was a simple rehash of the idea of cosmological evolution, nothing new at all. Let’s make something clear, those who espouse the idea that because we have discovered that most all of the base elements of creation and man are also found in the stars, this in no way proves that men and creation all evolved from stars! This is one of the most ridiculous ideas I have ever heard, and yet many learned men are making this case. Some are saying that when stars explode [novas] that these base elements then form planets and people and monkeys and elephants and- well you get the idea. What mechanism are they giving us that shows us that something like this is even possible? Absolutely none. They are simply making the claim that because we share most of the same matter, thattherefore the stars themselves created everything. This is not only not truescience, but it doesn’t pass the smell test of elementary school! It would be like me stumbling across some computer disk, and then finding a computer to pop it into. Lo and behold I have found the complete works of Shakespeare on the disk. How did they get there? Sure enough some analyst figures out a way to examine the matter that makes up the disk [not the intelligence on it!] and lo and behold he identifies the makeup of the disk. He then proclaims ‘aha, I have figured out where the works of Shakespeare came from’ and he then goes on to give us the elements that make up the disk. What’s the problem? He simply identified the matter of the disk, he did not identify where the actual intelligence on the disk came from. So when people espouse the idea that the stars ‘made everything’ they are talking absolute nonsense. The onlytrueexplanation for the contents on the disk [or the intelligence found in the universe] is the reality that an intelligent agent put the contents there. There is no other rational explanation. Jodie Foster was right- when you have multiple solutions to a problem, the simplest is usually correct. Either the stars made everything [impossible], or God. I’ll go with God.

 

[1459] GROW A BRAIN YOU MORANS! Last night as I was watching the news they showed some protester sporting this large sign at some rally; I’m not sure if he was a tea partier or not. The point being that there is a danger in mounting the horse of judgmentalism, that is if you are trying to expose others faults, you usually wind up in the same ditch over time [he meant to say moron!] I also caught an apologetics show that I found interesting in the past, but recently they have been spending too much time exposing the ‘one world economy/church’ and have been dwelling on themes that I haven’t heard in years. The brother went on to explain the importance of exposing the one world banking system and how the bible speaks about a one world govt. so this is a way to show unbelievers the reality of the bible. The problem then becomes a sort of fear/unwillingness to address any global problems on a global scale. All organizations like NATO or the UN are deemed tools of the future anti Christ, this outlook usually overlooks the fact that the majority of the references found in the bible dealing with a ‘one world govt./kingdom’ are actually references that speak about the kingdom of God, so there is a danger that believers simply become stumbling blocks to any future endeavors for peace or any joint action on dealing with hunger or world poverty; these concerns are usually looked at as things that we can’t really doanything about on a global cooperative scale. In a nutshell we look like the above protestor carrying the sign; he thinks ‘boy did I show them’ and in reality, well yes he did show them! As believers we need to be bold about the truth claims of the gospel; yes it is exclusive, that is it tells people you can’t come to God any other way accept thru the Cross, but we need to be willing to work with the religious people who inhabit the earth, to not be so exclusive that we never join any cooperative efforts to deal with problems on a global scale. Just because people/leaders use the term ‘global village’ or ‘global order’ this does not mean they are all tools of some future global govt. that the anti Christ will head up! Jesus said many things that could fit into the category of a religious liberal; he advocated a passivist message for heaven’s sake! Let’salign ourselves with Jesus and his gospel, if we feel governments are doing wrong, then yes it’s our responsibility to speak up against oppressive regimes, to speak out against these types of things; but let’s also be willing to unite with other nations/govts. when they are sincerely trying to tackle world problems on a global scale, as long as we stick to the reality of the message of Jesus, we should not fear any and all efforts at global harmony.

 

[1460] TEACH ME THY WAY O LORD; I WILLWALK IN THY TRUTH, UNITE MY HEART TO FEAR THY NAME. Psalms 86:11. In the book of Hebrews repentance is described as afree gift from God, if he does not freely give it; we can never truly repent. This Psalm tells us that the Lord teaches us to fear his name; he unites our hearts to fear him. We often think of the fear of the Lord as something that we conjure up; a task that must be done, though we find it difficult to perform. Last night I saw the latest news on the Black mayor from the north east, Kwamie Kilpatrick, who was embroiled in scandals andgot kicked out of office a year or so ago. Of course there were many racial overtones to his firing; both sides claimed racial motives. Last night he was sentenced to 18 months in jail for violating his probation; part of the rules were he had to show all of the money he had or would make; he still has a million dollar fine to pay. They found out that he had some money that he did not declare. So they sent him to jail for a couple of years. As I watched the story it was easy to get caught up in the arguments on either side; those who think he was picked on because he is Black, or those who think he got what he deserved. As I heard the former mayor speak, he shared his faith in the Lord, he told the judge he has rededicated his life, become a good husband and father; that he has made efforts to reform. The judge simply said ‘that boat has sailed already’ and he gave himjudgment without mercy. As I heard the mayor I felt bad for him, he has done some wrong things in the past, and hiding the money was wrong; but this was not a case of some drug addicted person who went out and stole a bunch of money and shot a cop, this was a man who gave in to temptation in the past and seemed to be trying to make things right. Maybe they should have taken the money they found and let him try and restore his life. It would be sad if after he gets out of jail that his life took a turn for the worse and he never fully recovered. In all these types of cases the Lord has to grant us repentance as a gift, it is not something we can make happen on our own. Let’s ask God to unite our hearts to fear his name- ‘turn us again O Lord and cause thy face to shine and we shall be saved’.

 

[1461] LORD THOU HAST BEEN FAVOURABLE UNTO THY LAND, THOU HAST BROUGHT BACK THE CAPTIVITY OF JACOB- Psalms 85:1. Today we find out if the ‘top kill’ method of plugging up the oil leak in the gulf will work. We have had the ‘top hat’ ‘junk shot’ and even the ‘sombrero’ as options in the past, yes the 1979 leak in the bay of Campeche tried the sombrero! The sad thing is all the politics surrounding the whole thing; those in the media who are simply cheerleaders for the president, they can’t be trusted as news people. Those who are only critics, they can’t either. But you do have some fair reporting by some. Anderson Cooper of CNN seems to be doing the best job. Chris Matthews actually said at one point ‘I guess the republican critics are mad that this president is so ‘damn’ competent’ well what would you expect from him. And Bill OReilly had Glen Beck on to discuss ‘are some of the presidents critics going too far’ that’s like asking Hitler to comment on the Jews plight! All in all the media have treated this situation very favorably to the president; Bush would have been hammered from day one. I find it odd that the pictures of dead birds and the environmental disaster of disturbing the wetlands [a true tragedy indeed] have caused such concern; yet the same advocates seem to care less about the disruption of ‘the natural life cycle’ that is called abortion. I mean if you had pictures of babies washing up on shore by the millions, would some of these advocates have the same concern? If the babies that ‘washed up’ all were aborted one minute before birth, it would be considered legal; one minute after birth- murder. We need to re examine our values. The above psalm tells us that when things go well for a land, that is a sign of God’s blessing; when things go bad, it is a sign that we are doing things that displease him. Our country is debating gays in the military, I am not against gay people, but should this issue be coming up at this time? We came off a year of a fabricated emergency on passing health care; a good cause, yes- but to have spent an entire year on nothing else, bad move. North Korea sunk a South Korean battle ship and killed 43 men- these countries are on the verge of all out war. Iran has no respect at all for us; they will continue to pursue Nukes regardless of what we say. And John Brennan, the top guy at homeland security just gave a public speech saying ‘Jihad is an acceptable struggle for Muslims and we are not at war with terror or Islam’ Okay, I agree we are not a war with Islam per se; but to call Jihad an acceptable Muslim struggle, you got to be kidding me! If we as a people turn back to God, he will be favorableunto our land; if we continue to see our struggle as one where gays in the military, abortion on demand; appointing the first openly transsexual persons to the administration; if these things are looked upon as the ‘moral’ priorities of this administration, then yes, things will not go well for us. When the president appointed Elena Kagan as the most recent Supreme Courtnominee, one of the major news stations reported that she was the first openly gay nominated for the court. Then a day or so went by and they retracted the statement, but the reporter said it is an open fact that the woman lives in an open lesbian relationship with another woman, and that the people around her know this. Then another day or so went by and the news organization dropped the story. If the woman’s gay, I don’t know. But this president seems to be pushing an agenda that the majority of the American public are not in sync with. Should we discriminate against gays, or cross dressers, or people who have had sex change operations? No. But is it possible that manyof these people are struggling with deviant lifestyles? Yes. Is it possible that changingones sex might be a disorder, and not simply a civil rights issue? Yes. Then why would this president be on such a fast track to appointthesetypes of people to the highest positions in the land? Our country still has lots of issues to deal with, and we should pray for the president and do our best to support him when possible, but it is obvious that he has an agenda that fundamentally undercuts many American values; if we continue to pursue this type of course, things will not go favorably for our land.

 

[1462] ANSELM- Over the next few months I will do some brief overviews on important historical figures from church history. They will be under a separate section after the same name. Anselm was born in Italy in the year 1033, he eventually became a very influential church teacher and is famous for a few things; he came up with an argument for the existence of God called ‘the Ontological argument’ ontology is a word that means the nature of being. His idea went like this ‘Because there is no other greater conceivable being than God, that means God must exist’ in so many words he said because humans have this conscious belief in God as the greatest being, that therefore he must be that being. I’ll admit when I first read this argument I had some difficulties withit, I think you can find problems with it. But he nevertheless introduced it and it has become one of the classical apologetic arguments for God’s existence. The second major teaching that Anselm gave us was the teaching on the Atonement; Anselm taught that Jesus died to ransom man back to God, the penalty of death was a penalty paid to God. You say ‘what’s so new about that’? Many other church teachers taught that Jesus died to pay a ransom to the devil, that at the fall of man satan gained dominion over man and that Jesus death purchased us back from satan. Though there is some truth to man being under the dominion of satan after the fall, yet Anselm was ‘more right’ in the way he approached it. As a matter of fact his teaching eventually became the norm for the church. Anselm introduced Reason into the argument for the existence of God. Many teachers used scripture and appealed to the church fathers to prove the reality of God, Anselm was one of the first to lean heavily on logic when arguing for Gods existence. He is considered one of the greats of church history and we still benefit from the influence of Anselm to this day.

 

[1463] BE OF GOOD CHEER,MASTER RIDLEY, PLAY THE MAN; WE SHALL THIS DAY LIGHT SUCH A CANDLE, BY GOD’S GRACE, IN ENGLAND, AS I TRUST SHALL NEVER BE PUT OUT’ Hugh Latimer, 16th century Bishop of the church of England. Many years ago when I first read this quote, it struck me. I recently came across it again, and it struck me again! Over the years of reading the lives of the saints there are certain words that were spoken at the point of martyrdom that for some reason have a lasting effect. One of the church fathers attributed this to the fact that the words that are spoken at this point are actually the words of God, not of men. Latimer was around 80 when he was burnt at the stake, under ‘bloody Mary’s’ reign. These words were to a fellow martyr, Ridley, who was also an influential Christian during the time of back and forth between Protestant and Catholic debates. During the reign of Henry the 8th he had various key influential figures that advocated for the Protestant position; manyargued the Protestant position for the political expediency of not having to answer to the Papacy, or to continue to ‘pay tithes’ to Rome. Henry the 8th is usually known for his penchant for executing his wives, but a careful study of history shows us that at a younger time in his reign he was a great king. He informed himself about the debates surrounding the reformation; he knew both sides and at one point wrote a rebuke to Luther and defended the 7 sacraments of the church. For this noble effort he would be given the title ‘defender of the faith’ by the Pope. But as time went on Henry would break from Rome and launch the English church. In many respects the Church of England was simply a Catholic church without a Pope; or to put it another way, the king became the new Pope. The reformation happened at a time in history that was politically ripe for it. The rise of the nation states and the yearning for national identity played a major role as the individual nationstates sought to break away from Rome. Luther would receive special protection by the political leaders in Germany because they liked the idea of independence. The same would happen in England, many around the King [and queens] were jockeying for position and trying to influence the leader in ways that they thought were the most advantageous for their own cause. But you also had some committedbelievers from both sides of the aisle that gave their lives for their strong convictions of their faith. Thomas More would die for his unwillingness to reject the Pope and accept the king as the new head of the church. And Latimer and others would die for their rejection of Catholic teachings. Though the king had many wives, he would only have 3 children to ascend to the throne. Edward, Mary and Elizabeth. Edward would die young [15 years of age] and Mary and Elizabeth would take turns at the helm. Mary was known for her ‘bloody reign’ and Elisabeth would turn out to be an exceptionally great leader, the greatest one sided naval victory in history took place under her realm while Spain suffered a great defeat. They too would be influenced by those insiders who had personal axes to grind. At first Mary wasn’t ‘bloody’, but she would eventually be convinced to execute those who were deemed a threat to the realm. The poor folks of England were at times dumfounded by those who were being killed; under Henry you could die if you rejected the doctrine of transubstantiation [the bread and wine being the literal body of Christ] but you could also be put to death if you believed the Mass to be a sacrifice of Christ. So you weren’t always sure what would get you killed! But those who died for their faith and refused to recant gave atrue testimony of their convictions; at the age of 80 Bishop Latimer encouraged a fellow martyr to ‘play the man’ he knew if they died well their testimony would light a candle that would burn on; he was right.

 

[1464] CHRISTIAN THE LION- ‘Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder, the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet’ Psalms 91:13.The other night I watched the viral video of Christian the lion. It’s been a hit on U-TUBE for a while. It’s the interesting story of these 2 Christians who saw this lion cub for sale in a store; they felt the cub should have a home and they bought him and raised him at their church. When he got too big to handle they brought him to a wildlife refuge and he was set free. A year or so went by and they thought they would go back and see if he still remembered them. The video shows the tense first sighting- is he going to remember them? Will he attack them? As they stand there in the open, the lion eyes them from a short distance; then one of the men yells ‘Christian’ and the lion recognizes his ‘parents’ and runs and jumps playfully all over them. It’s really a great story. Jesus told us we would tread on the serpents and lions; that is we would have dominion over the things that we perceive as our enemies. Jesus also told us that the meek would inherit the earth. We often view ‘lion treading’ as some type of Samson re-play; he killed alion with his bare hands. But the bible also speaks of a time when the lionwill lay down with the lamb- that is in Gods kingdom things that were once natural enemies are now reconciled. Are you facing some lions in your life right now? Have you been worrying about what strategy to use to ‘tread them down’? Have you thought of dominating thru love? I am not talking about a peace treaty with the enemy; I am talking about the reality that love never fails. These men had complete dominion over their lion cub, they loved him and cared for him and when it came time where they could have easily been overcome by him, instead love prevailed. The bible says we now have faith, hope and love- the greatest of these is love.

 

[1465] THE WORST ENVIRONMENTAL INCIDENT IN U.S. HISTORY! We are now in the 40 something day of the oil spill in the Gulf; it is now being called the worst environmental disaster in our nation’s history. Both the critics and the supporters of the president have been giving there sides of the situation. I want to try and give a fair analysis of the incident. Could the president have done more about the situation? Some have said he has done everything possible [Douglas Brinkley] others have said no [both Democrats and Republicans]. Even though the president has little control over stopping the leak, he could have been more pro active about getting the cleanup resources in place. He has yet to mobilize the amount of resources needed to mitigate the oil coming to shore in the Gulf States; he could have had the govt. go in and contract with thousands of private haz mat workersand they could have been in place much earlier than they were. The president could have contracted with private business and had tankers going back and forth over these huge spills and skimming as much oil as possible. These arereal things that were not done, and in some cases are still not being done. Number 2- the president seems to have had no initial concept of the ‘incident command system’ as a retired firefighter I have some experience with the concept. In the old days when fire depts. dealt with hazards they usually did their part at the scene, while the other entities did their own thing [Police, Highway patrol, etc.] but for many years now we use the Incident Command System; that is at each incident you have one main person designated as the go to man, he coordinates all the other heads of departments. He doesn’t do their jobs, but he is the person ON SCENE that is in charge. It took around 40 days before the administration began referring to Admiral Thad Allen as the incident commander. Many in the media began saying that they needed an incident commander, and it seems as if the administration realized they needed to say they have one. It is obvious to me that the fine admiral was not doing what incident commanders do. He has said over and over again that there were aspects of his job that did not mix with B.P. Though this is true, yet the incident commander does over see all operations. You have also had Parish Leaders telling us that the president has told them to call him directly if they have problems. In one instance the media reported that the president and the admiral were all meeting with the local leaders and the local leaders overruled admiral Allen about how to deal with a certain problem; this my friends is not an incident commander. All in all the president does seem to be learning these things as ‘onthe job training’. I had a strong supporter of the president ask me why he seems to not be able to handle the situation. I reminded the person that one of the debates that went on during the campaign had to do with job experience; many argued that Obama had no executive experience- they said as a former intellectual, and his experience as a ‘community organizer’ that these things did not give a person the executive experience that was needed for the job. In some ways it does seem like they were right. I do not blame the president for the leak [though it was under his administration that B.P. and other drillers received special treatment to continue off shore drilling] but it is obvious to me that he has dropped the ball on some things. This morning oil is washing up on the beaches of Pensacola, why didn’t we have all the cleanup people out in force since last week? Instead they showed pictures of beach goers picking up oil balls with their kids! You do not have to be an oil professional to have the insight to get people in place ahead of time, but you do need some minimal ‘executive experience’.

 

[1466] ‘Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most high, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling’ Psalm 91:9-10. The other night we had some severe wind storms, as I walked out into my yard the next morning, I could barely open the door; one of my trees came down and covered the entire yard! As I spent the day cutting it with my new chainsaw; I realized that just a week or so ago I was looking at the tree and thinking I should cut it down some day. I have lived in Texas since 1980 and have never owned a chain saw, but a few weeks back I saw an ad in the paper and it was a great deal [35 dollars- electric] and I had to go for it. Then the morning I found the tree down I had first read Psalms 91 ‘he will give his angels charge over thee…no evil will come near your dwelling’ I realized the tree could not have fallen in a better spot. I had very little damage to myfence and no damage to the house, even though branches were up against the windows. As I spent the day cutting, I realized that in some ways this was a divine conspiracy! I mean why did I just happen to by a chainsaw, and why would I have been thinking about cutting this treedown just a few days earlier? As I watched the local news I saw all the damage that other trees did during the storm; it looked like a hurricane hit [you will see it with your eyes, but it will not affect you- Psalm 91]! The falling of the tree created a new area in the yard for me to see ‘further’ when praying early in the morning; it was a change in environment- in what I see as I pray. The Lord said to Abraham ‘look, all the places that YOU SEE, those are the places that I give to you, and your children/seed after you’. Sometimes the Lord allows some former markers to pass away so he can establish some new things. At first I was upset because I did not plan on spending a day messing with a downed tree, but then I realized if the tree had to come down, there really was no easier way to have done it. Sure these types of events interfere with your normal routine, but you might as well make the best of them when they wind up on your front [or back] door.

 

[1467] JESUS MANIFESTO, Frank Viola and Leonard Sweet. The other day I received an interesting email, Thomas Nelson book publishers offered me a free advanced copy of the above book, they are giving away 200 advanced copies and they offered one to me. They simply said they would appreciate it if I mentioned the book on my blog. So here I am; I’ve read a few chapters and ‘Frank-Len’ make a good case for restoring the church back to a strong Christology [I think I would have said ‘Christ centric model’ instead]. The point they argue is that the people of God and Christianity itself has lost the matchless vision of a magnificent Lord and has replaced it with all types of other stuff. They give a list of some of the stuff; it includes end time things, prosperity, leadership…theology, evolution versus creation- well you get the hint. While it’s difficult to argue against the authors main point [who can argue against returning the church to Christ?] the danger is in thinking that ‘theology’ or any other attempt at clarifying the orthodox Jesus is a substitute for Jesus himself, that is we as believers do need to be aware of the many rabbit trails we often get sidetracked on but at the same time we need to understand the need for good Christian doctrine [theology]. I noticed that the authors did not include ‘organic church’ on the list. I do like the many quotes from historic church figures; Tertullian, Aquinas, Barth, etc. and I like the ‘folksy-popular’ style the book is written in, sounds like reading Eugene Peterson’s Message version. All in all the first few chapters are well worth reading, they do center you back on Jesus Christ, and the devotional style restores the soul. To be fair the authors do answer the charge that the bible itself teaches lots of subjects, so why be against all the other things on their list? They explain well that although we as believers will learn and teach various subjects, yet according to the apostolic pattern, these things are like ‘spokes on a wheel’ they are needed at times, but Jesus is the center of the wheel. All in all it’s hard to disagree with the main point of the book. I have found the argument ‘we focus on Jesusonly’ to be at times an excuse for ‘unlearned preaching’ sometimes preachers have used this as an excuse to not delve into good Christian ‘theology’ but I don’tsensethis with this book. Over the next few days I will finish the book [it’s not big, I’m just busy!] and hopefully will comment a few more times. I’m not sure how I got on the list to receive an advanced copy, but I’m grateful for the copy- as a book collector its cool to have a copy that says ‘advanced copy- uncorrected proof- not for resale’. I guess Frank must have recommended me for the book; I have blogged on a mutual site in the past. I have heard of Leonard Sweet before, but am not familiar with him at all. I should note that I have taught many of the same themes found in this book, and I think it would benefit all of us to re focus on the early church’s emphasis on knowing the Lord, not just doctrinally, but in a real way- this is the main point of the book.

 

[1468] FOR THOU LORD HAST MADE ME GLAD THRU THY WORK, I WILL TRIUMPH IN THE WORKS OF THY HANDS- Psalms 92:4. The Psalms talk a lot about God establishing the work, revealing his works to his people. Israel had a history of recalling the works of God; often times you read ‘where is the God of our fathers, the God who we heard such great things about’? As somewhat of a student of church history, we always want to be conscious of the fact that God is ‘making history’ even in our time; that is he still wants to set down some important markers, he still is enacting key moments in time. As believers we want the Lord to reveal to us in a fresh way ‘the works of his hands’ that is we want to enter into the works of the Lord. Now I am not speaking about being busy for God; involving ourselves in all types of programs and churchy type things, but more of an understanding of the times we are in and how we fit into the broader picture. Once we ‘see’ the times we are living in, the things God is doing [as opposed to men] then we will be working smarter- not harder. Remember, as a child of God you possess all the legitimacy to walk as a kingdom person, God will connect you to the people he wants you to be connected to, but your legitimacy comes from God. Once you see his purpose in this generation, and your part in it, then you will be empowered with divine energy to do your part. ‘Write the vision and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it- for the vision is for an appointed time, though it tarry, wait for it, because it will surely come’.

 

[1469] AQUINAS, THOMAS- Thomas is considered to be one of the greatest Christian thinkers of all time. Born in Naples around 1225, he studied in Cologne under the Dominican order. During Thomas lifetime there was a rediscovery of the ancient writings of the philosopher Aristotle. Thomas would write commentaries on the philosophy of Aristotle and he would attempt to introduce reason into the arguments to prove the existence of God. He was a follower of that form of Christian teaching called ‘scholasticism’ this method used reason and logical debate to arrive at truth. Other scholars would reject this method [Bonaventure] they felt that using these rational methods was a contradiction to faith. Thomas would become famous for his ‘five ways’ also referred to as Natural Theology. Thomas taught that there were 5 basic ways man could examine the natural created order and come to a rational belief in the existence of God; Thomas taught that the first cause of all things had to be God, you logically needed a first ‘causer’ to start the ball rolling[prime mover]. John Duns Scotus was a contemporary of Aquinas and he disagreed with the scholastic method. Scotus would become famous among the Franciscans; Aquinas would be famous among the Dominicans. Today many Catholic scholars pride themselves in being ‘Thomistic’ in their thought. Thomas also spoke much about ‘just war’ theory, originally introduced by Augustine. He taught that the means of war had to be just in order for the war itself to be ‘justified’; in today’s wars [Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan] I believe the use of unmanned drone attacks that kill civilians can be considered an unjust method. Thomas’ great works are Summa Contra Gentiles and Summa Theologiae, Thomas is called the ‘angelic doctor’ of the Catholic faith.

 

[1470] PSALM 95- I find it interesting that right now the country is fixated on the underwater video of the leak in the gulf, I mean they just recently released the high def.version! It seems that for some strange reason we keep looking at ‘this work’. In Psalm95 God exhorts the people to praise him, to sing to him, to worship him with instruments. Then there is this warning to not harden our hearts when he speaks; the warning says ‘don’t be like you fathers, who when they knew what I wanted, rebelled and SAW MY WORKS for 40 years’. Seeing Gods work in this context meant seeing Divine judgment day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year. There is talk now that this oil leak might go on for a year! I am not saying the leak is ‘God’s work’ but there is truth to the idea that when we reject God we are then left with viewing things that are less than profitable. The children of Israel had a great opportunity to have seen thepromised land and would have been the first generation to have dwelt in the land; yet because of their unbelief they instead saw Gods work in judgment for an entire generation. Letsworship and praise God daily, this creates an environment to hear the voice of the Lord, then when he speaks, be quick to hear [which means action] if not, we might spend the next few years staring at an underwater oil leak.

 

[1471] LOST AT SEA- 2 days ago I saw a story in the news about a 16 year old girl who was attempting to sail around the world, she has been at sea for around 5 months and her family said they lost all contact with her and her emergency beeper went off. At first when I heard the story I thought the poor girl has no chance. The boat she was in was small, the last contact they had with her said she was somewhere in the Indian Ocean and she was in 30 foot swells. But in the morning when I do my routine prayer, when I got to the point when I pray for the nations [things like natural disasters, famine, world problems, etc.] I felt the Lord telling me to mention this girl in particular. So I did. Then I felt a feeling like I will hear something about her in the news that was going to confirm the importance of prayer. Sure enough I saw the news and they miraculously found this girl. Some search planes went out in the area where they thought she might be and right before they gave up they spotted what they described as ‘a dot’ in the ocean, upon further inspection it was her. Her boat was ruined and she had lost all contact by radio. If these pilots didn’t just happen to see her, she would have surely died out there. I had a friend of mine who was a good man, involved in all types of ministry things. As I was talking to him one day, trying to give him some advice on some things, I asked him when he prays. Is there a time that you set aside to pray? His answer was ‘I pray all the time’. I realized at that moment that he did not have a set time when he prayed. To me it seemed unthinkable to not have this time; a real time to pray. I want to encourage you guys today, setaside time daily for prayer. It’s5:30 a.m. as I write, I usually spend the 3:30-4:00 till 5:30 slot to pray. You don’t have to do it that early, but it’s important that you have a habit of prayer. And when the Lord says ‘pray for this person/situation’ then pray for it, even if you think all hope is lost.

 

[1471] WEEK IN REVIEW- Yesterday I had the chance to catch up on some news paper reading; lets cover a few things. First, I read an article about a person being prosecuted by the Obama administration- he has worked for the govt. since 2001and is an expert consultant on high tech stuff.  He has tried for years to update the government’scapabilities in the area of surveillance and undercover stuff, the problem he has run into is many depts.are still run by old timers who don’t even know what Twitter means! So after years of trying he leaked the story to the N.Y. Times. Well the president launched an unprecedented investigation, 20 something F.B.I. agents were put on the case. They traced the leak to him and are currently prosecuting him to the fullest extent of the law. He is married with children, his family is devastated, he has lost his job at Harvard and other highly held positions, he is now working at a computer sales store, waiting to stand trial. The president is trying to have him found guilty of a felony and to do as much time as the law allows [many years in prison]. The article went on to say that this president has launched more investigations/prosecutions for those who have leaked info. to the press, more than any other president in history! And he has only been in office for 17 months, this is unbelievable. This has created an atmosphere among the press that gets little to no ‘open’ info of what’s going on. These types of prosecutions are usually reserved for severecases, people leaking info about major things that could harm the govt.; you don’t do this to a man who was simply trying to upgrade our intelligence gathering. Number 2- The former head of the OMB has come out and said health care might cost an extra Trillion over the next ten years. The president told us that we would save 300 billion, how can this be? He went on to explain that many businesses looking at the options have figured out that it would be cheaper to drop the coverage of their employees and allow them to fall under the govt. subsidized program. It works like this; if an employer spends 12 thousand a year on your coverage, he can make a deal with the employee to give him an 8 thousand dollar raise and pay the 2 thousand dollar fine and make another 2 thousand dollar profit for the company, the govt. then used taxpayer money to not only cover the employee who used to get covered by his job, but your tax payer dollars also earned an extra 2 grand for the company! It was only a matter of time before stuff like this would happen. And last but not least, the promise that said ‘if you like your current coverage, you can keep it’ was a flat out lie. Many employers are now being told that if they want to offer the same EXACT coverage to their employees, then yes they can do so. But if things change at all, like the co-pay or some other expense, then that disqualifies them from opting out of the system. Any person familiar with how companies cover their people will tell you that every few years the employer usually shops the market for the best deal, and it is common knowledge that something in the plan will change. For the president to have said ‘if you like what you have you can keep it’ and to mean ONLY EXACTLY WHAT YOU HAVE is Chicago style politics to the full. When you tell the public ‘sure, we cheated on offering jobs to get Democrats out of races, but everyone does it’ [which by the way is not true]and then to go after a news leaker [even though everyone does that!]seems to be a double standard. To make statements that you know are deceptive [you can keep what you have]and to do so because you have made a political choice that you need to pass something whether or not it’s best for the people, then you have basically lost your moral compass; you simply can’t be trusted on anything. I think we should pray for our leaders, but at the same time be aware and informed on what they are doing, if the media does not hold them responsible, then they can get away with bad stuff. I don’t think our president meant to be like this, but because of pressure he has allowed stuff like this to happen. He misleads us way too much, he goes after people using the arm of the FBI in ways that former administrations would never do. And then when he gets caught himself he says ‘well, everyone does it’ this way of operating can’t go on without severe repercussions, we do reap what we sow.

 

[1472] JESUS MANIFESTO, 2nd post.  Okay I read some more from Frank Viola/Leonard Sweet’s book. I really like the emphasis that they place on the importance of Jesus and on self sacrifice as major themes of the Christian life; a good quote would be ‘Jesus is in the self transcending business, not self fulfilling one’. This book is a change of pace from the normal fare of self help books that rank high on the Christian book lists of our day. A few problems; at one point you can hear the sound of the post modern emergent voice, they admit that the bible contains ‘logical contradictions’ [ouch!] and they also challenge the ‘modern’ [as opposed to post modern] view of absolute truth. Descartes name is thrown out and they use a strange reference to the 13th century theologian/thinker John Duns Scotus. They rightly trace the famous nick name ‘Dunce cap’ to Scotus, but then they say that the famous teacher earned the name by resisting ‘mystery’ as a legitimate means of knowledge , while embracing pure logic. My understanding of howScotus got the nickname is actually the opposite of this. Scotus was a contemporary of Aquinas, during their day there was a rediscovery of the writings of the famous philosopher Aristotle; Aquinas became popular among the Dominicans for his embracing of Aristotle and his scholastic approach to learning [pure logic]. Scotus resisted Aristotle’s view that all learning comes to man thru the ‘5senses’and he taught there was a sort of 6th sense that man needs while approaching God. The point being it seems to me that Scotus got the nick name ‘Dunce’ not because he rejected mystery, but because he favored it! Anyway that’s just a technical historical point, as Will Farrell says in the movie ‘Anchorman’ let’s just agree to disagree. In the argument against the modern view of absolute truth, a few pages over they defend it! They explain that the reason the schools shy away from teaching character is because they won’t allow for ‘universals’ or ‘morals’. To be honest its trendy now a days to challenge the system, and most emergent’s will say stuff like this; I don’t think this to be a major problem with the book, just thought I should mention it. All in all the authors do a good job at re directing us back to Christ as being the center of the Christian experience; lots of excellent quotes from many historical figures, even one or two from the Pope! [Frank doing some penance over Pagan Christianity?] I am not sure if I’ll do another post on the book, I have a few pages left and I will certainly finish the book; but overall I do recommend the book, it is a must read for the ‘modern’ believer, we do need to be challenged in our day and this book does a good job of it. You will not find this book on the self help shelf of modern Christianity, and I think that’s a good thing.

 

[1473] PRESIDENTS ADDRESS- Last night the president gave his first presidential address; he spoke for around 18 minutes and tried his best to deal with the gulf oil leak. His speech came just hours after the N.Y. times did a critical story on his handling of the spill, they basically said the president has done a terrible job in the overall cleanup effort. I would note that the times have been one of the president’s strongest supporters. Also the criticism from the media has not been as bad as it could have been. I do remember hearing many times that the so called reason for Bush’s slow response after hurricane Katrina was because of his inherent racist views. Many pundits openly said that if the hurricane hit some mainly white northern state that the response would be different; I have yet to hear one person say that Obama is reacting badly because most of the fishermen and gulf residents are poor white folk. Okay, what about the speech. First, the president came out strongly for a new ‘cap and trade’ law; basically it is a tax on the oil industry designed to wean the country off oil and force industry into clean fuel use. Though this is a noble goal, to try this at a time when the oil industry is being hit hard, this does not help our fragile economy. We are goingto lose around 30-50 thousand jobs because of the 6 month moratorium on new oil rigs going up. Here where I live this effects many small businesses; these rigs don’t just go away for 6 months, they go and plant themselves in someother country and on average these jobs are lost for 5 years. To continue to hammer this industry with a new tax that would raise the cost of business and the price of fuel is simply irresponsible at this time. So why do it? The president realizes that in the upcoming elections they will lose seats, so this will probably be his last chance to enact any big things on his agenda, so that’s more than likely the reason he is trying for this. The president looked a little shaky during the speech, he appealed for prayer at the end [a good thing]and he tried to make the case that they have lots of resources in place to deal with the crisis; the main problem is there seems to be no real coordinated effort to handle the clean up. Most observers are saying there is a fundamental lack of leadership in the whole situation. I believe we should pray for the president, don’t impugn bad motives to the man [like he purposely wants to drag the country down so he can enact socialism!] and realize that ideologies have good or bad effects, if you believe it’s in the overall good for the nation to tax oil at this time; then your ‘belief’ will adversely affect many people who need help right now. I don’t think it would be fair to them to make them take another big hit at a time when they are already hurting.

 

[1474] YE THAT LOVE THE LORD, HATE EVIL- Psalm 97:10a. The other day I had a discussion with a college student, they are studying biology/evolution and they asked a bunch of important questions. I gave the person an overview of the true things we have learned from evolutionary theory, but I also explained how science has also shown us the limits that the theory has [went into information theory and DNA and the fossil record]. The person then asked all types of questions about the bible- I went into the manuscript evidence and historical proofs of scripture. Then the person asked about a society ‘free from religion’ sort of like Lennon’s theme in the song imagine. I explained that this project has been tried before and found wanting; covered the history of the Enlightenment and how those who advocated for a society free from God could not justify law and morality; they ultimately have to borrow capital from Christianity. I also explained that these experiments ended up in failure [socialism]. After giving the student a broad overview for the reality of God they said they thought I should teach it to their fellow students because they are not hearing both sides of the argument. I believe the apologetic arguments for the proof of God and Christianity can only go so far, then you need faith to embrace Christ; but there are many sincere students who get lambasted for the faith and are being duped out of believing what is true. After explaining some of the views of Christianity the person actually began seeing some of the flaws with the arguments that they have heard on the other side. It is progressive and open minded and ‘pluralistic’ to hear both sides of these issues, but many times in the university setting the student does not hear both views. After listening to both sides, it is obvious to see that those who advocate for a Godless society ultimately go down a road that is evil, governments that destroy and devalue human life. We have tried the atheistic experiment and it has failed; you that love the Lord, hate evil.

 

[1475] KNOW YE THAT THE LORD, HE IS GOD: IT IS HE THAT HATH MADE US AND NOT WE OURSELVES- Psalm 100:3. The bible also says ‘of his own will begat he us by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures’ ‘being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible; by the word of God that liveth and abideth forever’ [James, Peter]. Over the years I have had various groups of people that I have relatedto in ministry; ex-con friends, homeless guys, ‘church’ members- in each scenario I have to be reminded that these people are from the Lord, that is God has divinely positioned them and me to cross paths at each juncture of the journey. There are some of you right now reading this blog who I have never met before; some hear us every week on the radio as well. It is our responsibility to hear what God is saying in each situation. Some of you have wondered about many of the things we have taught over the years- that is you too have had thoughts and questions about many of these things and you have been confirmed in your beliefs as you read this site. Others are in the more traditional role of ‘church/pastor’ and you might benefit from another aspect of the teaching while by passing some stuff. Our job is to recognize that all of us have been brought to this place by Gods word; he is the one that has made us [even at all these different stages] and not we ourselves! If you find yourself questioning why some paths you have taken might not have been the same as others; then just realize that it is the Lord that directs our steps; he has allowed us to journey to the place we are at right now and it is simply our responsibility to hear him where we stand. Don’t try and hear him where someone else is standing, that  is don’t attempt to be ‘like the next guy’ you are unique and God has fashioned his word to speak to you and from you in a unique way. I just finished a prayer time; I pray for all of the former friends who I have worked with in the past, their kids and their ‘kids, kids’. Some of the parents have died, but I still pray for their offspring. I believe God has a divine purpose for all of those who I have crossed paths with over the years. Some of you I have never met, and never will meet; just take what the Lord has been giving you and run with it ‘one shall chase a thousand and two will put ten thousand to flight’ run well my friends.

 

[1476] WHOSOEVER BELIEVES THAT JESUS IS THE CHRIST IS BORN OF GOD- 1st John. I am almost finished reading the Jesus Manifesto, by Viola/Sweet. About a month or so ago I read an article by Scot McKnight on Historical Jesus studies; these are the men who approach the study of Jesus while trying to not be ‘biased’ by the gospels and the church’s traditional teachings about Christ. McKnight spoke as an insider who spent many years engaging in the study. He basically concluded that the system itself was flawed; they tried to usecertain ‘historical’ criteria and ended up in this hopeless process of never being able to agree on who Jesus really was! The great Christian writer C.S. Lewis spent many years rejecting the faith, but as somewhat of an intellectual he said he could not escape the deep roots of Christianity that he would find while reading the classics, studying the history of society; no matter where he went the testimony of the church was this unified declaration of who Jesus was and what his life and death and resurrection meant to humankind. The apostle John told us that those who believe that Jesus is the Christ, these are of God. Our bibles, as well as Christian orthodoxy declare to us who Jesus is; we do not need the testimony of those who are trying to examine him while being removed from the person, historically, by two thousand years. This is not to say that all historical study is wrong, but the flawed attempt at trying to restructure the Jesus of the gospels by embracing some historical method, a method that actually goes against all reliable historical studies, we surely don’t need this. There are 2 groups that reject thetradition of the church; those from the ultra liberal historical approach [Jesus seminar types] and the rigid fundamentalist camp. Now, in some ways I too am a fundamentalist, but I am speaking of the more extreme groups that reject the historic church and approachChristianity and the bible from a virgin perspective; that is these believers ‘believe’ that each new generation of Christians should read the bible without any historical context, both of these approaches can become hotbeds of heresy. I thank God that both the bible and the church have declared to us who Jesus is, the apostle John says ‘we have declared to you that which we have seen, and that which we have handled’ John and his companions spent time with the Lord, these original apostles are called ‘the foundation stones of the church’ [being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets] we today are part of a corporate temple that spans 2 thousand years; our forefathers have left us a great legacy, let’s not  squander it by trying to reconstruct that which has been faithfully passed down to us- whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.

 

[1477] ‘How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the father of our master Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down the earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, and settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family by Jesus Christ. He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift giving by the hand of his beloved son.’ Ephesians 1, Message bible. Over the next few weeks I think I will hit some key verses from this letter to the church at Ephesus. This letter [as well as Colossians] strike a different tone from Paul’s other letters. Many see the letter to the Romans as Paul’s greatest theological work [and it very well might be] and as you read Galatians [and Hebrews- to those who think Paul wrote it] you find lots of good stuff on the law versus grace. Though this letter also deals with that [the middle wall of partition broken down in Christ] yet you see more of an emphasis on the eternal purpose of God for the church. In the above passage Paul teaches us that God pre planned our conversion before the world began! He is showing us that he chose us, not the other way around. He not only destined us to ‘be saved’ but to be made ‘whole and holy’ in him in love. This divine work is both an individual and corporate experience. The church fathers would teach us that he ‘who has God as his father, also has the church for his mother’, this meaning that as you enter into the Christian life, you are entering a community of people in whom God has great designs. The scriptures refer to us as The Bride, a Temple, the Body of Christ- all these references point to the corporate identity that we have in Christ. God wants us to ‘enter into this lavish gift giving by the hand of his beloved Son’. God is in the process of bringing all things together in Christ, Jesus is the all in all, and as his people we are the vehicle thru which he will accomplish this great purpose- all things in heaven and on earth will glorify his son, and God makes manifest this knowledge of Christ thru the church; the bible says even the angels are looking at this mysterious work of Christ and his bride and are seeing things that they never saw before. Rejoice in the fact that you and I are part of the greatest building program of all time; God is building us into a holy temple, a bride that will be spotless, totally accepted in Jesus- all this thru grace. Yes, we have great reason to rejoice.

 

[1478] TRIBUTE TO BILL AND A WEDDING. This week my oldest daughter got married; they rented the beautiful Texas state aquarium [the official aquarium of Texas located here in Corpus] and they had a wonderful celebration. At first I thought they were just renting out a room/area, but they had the whole aquarium! It was really nice. I also heard some sad news; one of the homeless guys passed away. Iknew Bill since 1992, out of all the homeless brothers I took Bill out to eat the most- hundreds of times over the years, without exaggeration. Bill used to visit Corpus as a boy when his dad took him and his family to the ocean on the weekends. They lived in Dallas and Corpus was their vacation spot. Over the years Bill would come back and eventually marry and move his family down here. He had some hard luck and eventually wound up on the streets. He lived here in an area where I live, a part of town called Flour Bluff. Lots of homeless guys hang out in this area, my neighborhood is nice, right next to the water [Gulf of Mexico] but because of the close location to the beaches lots of transients gravitate here. Bill was a good friend, every now and then I would talk to Bill about the Lord, but it was more from a friendship angle and not from a religious ‘witnessing’ approach. Bill knew the gospel and did show signs that the Lord was working in his life. Bill was in his 70’s and they could not find any next of kin, I think they cremated his body. I didn’t find out about his passing until a month or so after he died, often times that’s how you hear- word of mouth type thing. These last few years I did not get with Bill as much as I would have liked- but even if I didn’t see him for months, yet as soon as we would get together it was like no time passed. He was truly a good friend. I have a little ‘memorial wall’ here in my study; I started writing the names of friends and family when they pass on, I have saved a few funeral cards on this wall too. The bible says ‘Lord, teach us to number our days so we would apply our hearts to wisdom’ [my paraphrase] James says the days of man are like a vapor, which appears for a little while and then is gone; or like grass which grows up in the morning and is cut down in the evening. I danced with my daughter to the song ‘Cinderella’ by Steven Curtis Chapman. He wrote the song about his adopted foreign child, she was young and Steven wrote it to remind himself how short our time can be; life goes on fast and before you know it your Cinderella is married and gone. Part of the song says ‘I will dance with Cinderellawhile she is here in my arms, because I know something the prince never knew’ and then the song goes on to say before too long she’ll be gone. Soon after Steven wrote the song his little daughter was accidently run over by her brother, she died too soon. The song became a prophetic witness to the death of his daughter. I gave away my daughter and lost a good friend, lets number [count] our days so we might realize that we only have so many and that we might live them for the glory of God.

 

[1479] ‘Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the cross, we are a free people- free from the penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free either. ABUNDANTLY free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything in planet earth’ Ephesians 1, message bible. Notice how the ‘long range plan’ of God has been revealed to us in time; that is God had all these things mapped out before the world even started! The plan is to bring everything together in Christ, that all things in heaven and on earth would show forth the full restoration that was accomplished at the Cross. Paul speaks about this ‘full world’ reconciliation in Romans chapter 8; the creation itself shall be delivered from the curse and enter into the full joy of the manifestation of the sons of God. One of the main themes of Jesus in the parables is to show forth the full world impact of the kingdom of God. Jesus talks about the kingdom as a small seed, and it grows into this great tree. Or a fishing net that brings in all types of fish [full harvest]. One of the mistakes that some believers made was they began interpreting the kingdom parables in a way that said ‘see, these parables speak of the religious world of Christendom, and how false religion will take over the planet’ Ouch! Jesus has a purpose for all of creation; he has let us in on these plans and has given us authority to fulfill our part of the plan. We have complete acceptance from God based on the work of the Cross, free from all penalties and punishments that we deserve because of our sins. Yet God who is rich in mercy has lavished upon us great grace, he has chosen us to be an important part of this plan, we are the actual Body of Christ on the earth that Jesus speaks and acts thru, we are major players in the eternal purpose of the most high!

 

[1480] ‘When I heard of your trust in the Lord Jesus and the love that you have towards all the saints, I couldn’t stop thanking God for you, every time I prayed I’d think of you…I ask the God of our master, the God of glory to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so you can see exactly what it is that he’s calling you to do’ Ephesians 1. Notice what the apostle prayed for; he asked God to open their eyes so that they might know Jesus more personally- that is he did not request that they simply have a better grasp of the doctrine of Jesus Christ [which is important] but he was asking that they might actually increase in their relationship with him. It has been said that Christianity is the only religion in which the founder actually lives inside the follower. I like that, it keeps us focused on the reality that God wants us to be more than simple intellectualassenters of the truth claims of Christianity. There is a major theme in the New Testament that runs along these lines, the apostle says ‘I count all things loss that I might increase in the knowledge of him’ once again meaning to know him more. Now I must admit that there are times when believers seem to disdain other groups of believers because they deem them wrong or lacking in some area. It is common to hear certain groups refer to other groups as ‘lost’ that is they see the traditional expression of Christianity that they follow and they judge them as never having receivedJesus ‘into their hearts’. I think this is a mistake that we make; notice in the above passage that Paul was thanking God for their faith and the love that they showed to all the saints; that is they had a grasp on the corporate wide nature of the church. While it is important for us to increase in our relationship with Christ, it’s also important to see that God is at work with many groups of believers, not just those who seem to be the most like us! Let’s ask God to increase us in the area of knowing Jesus more personally- that the eyes of our understanding would be enlightened, that we might grasp the length and depth and height of the love of Christ as the corporate people of God. It takes a body of people to fully grasp the greatness of ‘their head’ Jesus is the head of the church, the people of God that transcend time and space. As members of this mystical people called the church, we need each other to come to a more mature understanding of who he is and what he wants us to do- we are not in this thing alone.

 

[1481] ‘And you hath he made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins… but God who is rich in mercy for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when WE were dead in sins, hath MADE US ALIVE together with Christ [by grace ye are saved] and has raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness towards us in Christ Jesus’ Ephesians 2: 1, 4-7. The other day I heard the common question on some Christian show, the person asked ‘why is there evil in the world’ and the normal answer usually says that in order for God to have had men willingly love him, he could only accomplish this by giving men free will; then because of this ‘forced’ environment of choice some men would chose to sin and ultimately evil is the greatest ‘necessary evil’ there could ever be. I’m sure I’ve used this argument a few times myself, andI’m also sure that there is some truth to it. But from another angle it does seem strange that evil exists because this was the ‘best’ God could do to create an environment where men would willingly come to him; maybe one of the reasons for evil is not so much a result of God trying to create an environment that wouldultimately please him [willing lovers] but maybe a part of it has to do with us, that is the reality of redemption and the great grace and mercy that we receive from God would not have the same effect on us if evil and damnation were not a real option. The above passage tells us that one of the reasons that God freely saved us is so in the ages to come he might show the great mercy and grace that he possesses thru this redeemed people, a people who by all rights deserved judgment. Though I didn’t get into it in the previous chapter [too much] yet the apostle delves into the doctrine of predestination right in the greeting of the letter! We usually view the doctrine as an ‘in the closet’ doctrine that shouldn’t be discussed in mixed company. The fact that God chose us and redeemed us because of his purpose and will that he designed for us before we were born, this extravagant grace poured out on us for ages to come- this work glorifies the Father. We are ‘his workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works that God hath before ordained that we should walk in them’ we are corporately Gods work, the WE, US verses speak to this. All of this is a free work of grace that has been activated by faith, a faith that was also given to us as a gift, not of works lest any man should boast.

 

[1482] ‘For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of two one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the Cross, having slain the enmity thereby’ Ephesians 2:14-16. Over the years I have seen this portion of scripture used in a way that said God removed the animosity between man and God [true] and that this verse speaks of that. In actuality this scripture is speaking to the reality of God removing the animosity between the two major ‘races’ of the first century. In today’s pluralistic society we find it difficult to grasp the religious prejudice that existed in Jesus’ day; those who were Jewish and partook of Judaism were considered accepted by God, those who were not Jewish were considered outsiders and without ‘God in the world’. So in Paul’stheology he shows us that one of the major aspects of the Cross was the taking away of the object that caused the enmity- which was the ordinances of the law. Colossians tells us that the law of commandments was nailed to the Cross, and it is thru this action that the Jewish nation no longer had a ‘one up man ship’ thing going against the Gentiles. The work of the Cross leveled the playing field where the Jewish religion could no longer say ‘we have Gods law, you don’t’ instead the new proclamation after the Cross says ‘Jesus nailed the law to the Cross and we all stand on equal ground at the foot of the Cross’. To our 21st century minds this might not be such a great thing, but to the people of the 1st century it was.Last night I saw a story on the news about the two men who stood outside of an election place during the last presidential election; they were members of the New Black Panther Party and were dressed like thugs- they had billy clubs and the whole nine yards. Just seeing these men looked intimidating. The complaints against them were that they intimated white voters from voting; some said they used racial slurs against white people, they stood in the way and blocked the entrance, bad stuff all the way around. The reason it’s in the news is because the justice dept. just dropped the case against these thugs. One of the employees who worked on the case quit, he said they were told that they were not to bring charges againstBlacks who intimated Whites, only the other way around. How much of the accusations are true, I don’t know. But the problem is by any standards this is a classic case of voter intimidation- you simply can’t get a better text book case than this. Nowthere are many Black leaders, both political and religious, who defend these men and their actions. Even though elderly white women obviously were scared to vote, yet these leaders accept racist actions if they come from their own race. This is wrong and totally unacceptable, especially from anyone standing in a pulpit. The message of the Cross is one of reconciliation of all people, we want mercy and truth to prevail, and we do not want any special treatment for one group while discriminating against another. I thank God that thru the Cross the enmity was removed, we can all stand on equal ground at the foot of the Cross and come thru the same Spirit to our God, Jesus took away the thing that caused the animosity.

 

[1483] ‘And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone; in whom all the building fitly framed together grows into a holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are built together for an habitation of God thru the Spirit’ Ephesians 2: 20-22. The temple imagery is one of the great pictures of what the church is in the New Testament. One of the greatest Old Testament surveys done in the bible is Acts chapter7; Stephen gives this tremendous overview of the history of Israel. One of the portions of scripture that he quotes is Psalms ‘God does not dwell in temples made with hands’ he is prophesying of the great living temple of people that was beginning to form in the book of Acts. One important note; over the last few years there has been some controversy between the organic church movement [house church movement, cell church, etc.] and the traditional church. An important thing to remember is the imagery of the temple/people of God is not describing a meeting at all- whether it be in the ‘church building’ or the home. The imagery is that of a people who transcend time and space, a company of people that share life with God, God really dwells in his people- not just on a meeting day, or in a meeting place, but all the time! It’s easy to lose the reality of the temple imagery and replace it with the ‘church building’. It’s also easy to miss read this imagery, Stephen himself as well as many of the early believers had no problem going to the temple or to a synagogue meeting, it wasn’t off limits to meet in a building- it’s just they were actually being built together as an holy temple in the Lord and this reality transcended the old temple concept. We are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone- which means everything lines up with him; he is the plumb line for the building. Thank God that he no longer dwells in temples made with hands, but in us- a living temple made up of living stones! [Peter’s letter].

 

[1484] ‘This is why I Paul am in jail for Christ, having taken up the cause of you outsiders, so called. I take it that you are familiar with the part I was given in God’s plan for including everybody… none of our ancestors understood this, only in our time has it been made clear thru God’s Spirit… this is my life work, helping people understand and respond to God’s message. It came as a sheer gift to me, a real surprise, God handling all the details’ Ephesians 3, message bible. As I said earlier in this study, the ‘mystery’ that God revealed to Paul was the reality that thru Christ all ethnic groups would be on the same footing with God. This specifically related to the religious belief of the day that the ethnic nation of Israel were the only ones with special access to God. For Paul to have been preaching this message in his day would be like us teaching that God’s plan for all people today- Jews, Arabs, Palestinians, Iranians, etc., it would be like saying Gods purpose for our day is to accept all of these ethnic groups as one group thru Christ. To be frank about it, I believe many evangelicals today are not fully seeing the reality of the Cross when they exalt the natural heritage of Israel as Gods special people. Though I realize many of these teachings mean well [end time scenarios and stuff] yet in practice they deny the equal footing that all people have in Christ. Paul was preaching the great news that your ethnic/cultural background no longer made any difference- thru Christ we are all Gods special people. This does not mean that we are all accepted whether or not we believe in Christ, a sort of religious syncretism, but it does mean that the offer of Jesus is available to all.

 

[1485] ‘So here I am, preaching about things that are way over my head, the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ… through Christians like yourselves this extraordinary plan is becoming known and talked about even among the angels!…All this is proceeding along lines planned long ago by God…so don’t let my present trouble on your behalf get you down’ Ephesians 3. It’s interesting that the great apostle could rejoice in everything that was happening as being a plan from God that was determined long ago- and yet he was presently suffering many things. He did not ask the Lord ‘why did you let me go to jail’ or ‘why has my career as a great religious leader, respected as a great teacher of the law, why has it all been thrown away on this new career- one where I’m going around, supporting myself by tent making! I mean I could have had a great career as a professional speaker! [Rhetoric]’ instead Paul realized that the troubles that were happening to him were a direct result of his calling in God. Isaiah says ‘for your shame they shall have double, and for your confusion THEY shall possess the double portion in the land’ ‘he shall see of the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied, he was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities’ the biblical theme is we often suffer as a result of the work that God is doing thru us for others. Paul encourages the church to not faint at his tribulations for them, which is their glory. If we can grasp the reality that to them that love God, all things are working together for good, then we can rejoice in the good times and bad. But if our measuring rod for success is the world’s measuring rod, then we will be like a ship in the wind- tossed back and forth and wavering with every change in the weather. Paul learned to be content in whatever state he was in- jail, freedom- lack, abundance; all these things were working for good, even the things that didn’t seem ‘good’.

 

[1486] ARIUS- a priest from Egypt who would challenge the deity of Jesus in the 4th century. Arius taught that Jesus was the Son of God, but not eternally the Son. He said Jesus was a created being whom the father ‘bestowed’ son ship upon. He taught that Jesus was ‘like God’ but not God. The emperor Constantine would call the famous council of Nicaea in 325 a.d. and the council would agree with Athanasius and say that the Son and the Father were of ‘the same substance’ [homoousios] and Arius’s belief would be rejected. The debate would still rage on thru out the century as Constantine would die and the new emperor from the east would hold to ‘Arian’ views. Eventually Orthodoxy would win out and Arianism would be rejected by the majority of believers. I should note that many of the oriental churches would go the way of Arianism till this day; some of these churches are not like the modern cults that we would automatically reject, but they do hold to beliefs that OrthodoxChristianity has rejected. As I have written about before, it’s easy to see how various believers have struggled with these issues over the years, some of the ways people express things can be deemed heresy a little too quickly in my view. There are believers who express the deity of Jesus in ways that some Arians express it, and they are not full Arians! The point being, yes- Arian went too far in his belief that Jesus was a created being, Johns gospel refutes this belief strongly [as well as many other portions of scripture] but too say that Jesus was/is the full expression of the father, because he ‘came out from God’ is also in keeping with scripture. Today we should be familiar with the issues and also use much grace when labeling different groups of believers; and we should strive for a unity in the Spirit as much as possible. As believers we accept the full deity of Christ, one who is of the ‘same substance’ of the father- true God from true God. He who has seen the Son has seen the father- Jesus said to Phillip ‘I have been with you a long time, if you see and know me, you have seen and known my father’ Jesus is God come down in the flesh to dwell among men, the true Immanuel, God with us.

 

[1487] WHERE IS THE HOUSE THAT YOU ARE BUILDING FOR ME AND WHERE IS THE PLACE OF MY REST? FOR ALL THOSE THINGS HATH MINE HAND MADE AND ALL THOSE THINGS HAVE BEEN- SAITH THE LORD. Isaiah 66:1-2. These last few weeks I have been jumping around in our studies from Ephesians to church history and Isaiah, I thought this verse fit in good with some of the themes in Ephesians. Paul talked about the eternal purpose of God that was planned before the world began and how our part in it has also been pre ordained. There is another scripture in Isaiah that says ‘I showed it to you before it happened so you would know that I was the one who did the work’. God asks us ‘what is it that you are building for me? What is the house/dwelling that you are constructing?’ The dwelling place of God is the church, the building ‘fitly framed together that grows into a temple of the Lord’ we are simply tools in the hand of God, his purpose and the part we play in it are all of God; the apostle said ‘I worked more than all the others, never the less it was not I, but the grace of God in me’ Paul knew that the things God was accomplishing thru him were pre planned things; stuff that he could not take credit for. I want to encourage you today; do you see yourself as carrying the load of ministry- of the things you are ‘building for God’? All these things God has made, and they ‘have been’ you and I have just appeared in time for a small moment to play our part, the success of the work rests upon God- not us.

 

[1488] ‘I therefore…beseech you that you would walk worthy of the calling…with all lowliness and meekness, putting up with each other in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and father of all, who is above all and thru all and in you all’ Ephesians 4:1-6. Last night I caught Tim Lahaye [famous end time’s preacher] on the fox channel, he was talking about the one world govt. system and the one world banking/economic system. He was saying how he believed that the Obama administration was a tool that would lead up to the apocalypse. The host, Mike Huckabee, was kind enough to let Tim speak but kind of gave a little more mercy to the president. I felt bad for Lahaye, you could see he is getting up in age and you could tell that that’s the way he saw the bible, the lens of end time dispensationalism and the one world order was what he saw, and that’s that. Often times in the various debates that believers have amongst one another, it’s easy to lose sight of the greater purpose of God. In the above passage the apostle talks about the necessity of seeing God’s people as one body, to avoid as much as possible any divisions that would rise up among us. In our day we have many sincerebelievers who see many things differently, how far down the road of practical unity we will get- I don’t know. But it is imperative that we give each other the benefit of the doubt, that we make room for the different views that other believers have- yes even those who espouse the end time scenarios that seem to be a little off base! As a student of the bible and church history, I realize that there are many doctrinal differences that are deep seated- these will not go away simply because we love one another; but at the same time there needs to be an overriding view of the desire of God for unity among his people. I need to make as much ‘room’ for you as possible when it comes to being a fellow believer in the Lord, I should not allow my beliefs in certain areas trump the unity that we all posses in Christ. This chapter speaks of the gifts that Christ gives to the church for the benefit of the whole body, if I am using my gift in a way that causes division, then no matter how gifted I am, I am working against the purpose of that gift. In the above passage the apostle speaks of the need for humility and meekness, we need to stop seeing each other thru the lens of ‘our group is better/knows more truth than your group’ even if we believe that ‘our group’ really is more doctrinally sound than the other members of Christ’s church, yet we are called to lowliness and meekness when dealing with one another- yes there will be times of honest and robust disagreement, but we must not forsake/forget the high calling to strive for unity amongst the people of God. Let’s give people the benefit of the doubt- if we disagree with them, whether politically or in areas of belief, let’s not jump to the conclusion that they are going to personally play a major role in bringing in the apocalypse for heaven’s sake! If these people are believers then it is our duty to give them the benefit of the doubt, even if we disagree with them strongly in certain areas.

 

[1489] ‘till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man…that we henceforth be no more children, tossed back and forth and carried around by every new teaching, by the tricks of men who lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love may grow up INTO HIM in every way, he is the head- even Christ’ Ephesians 4:13-16. This passage comes right after Paul gives us a description of the gifts/ministers that exist in the church; the purpose of gifted people is to bring the people to a maturity in Christ- not just an increase in knowledge about Jesus, but that we as the body of Christ might fully mature and be more like him. Often times we confuse intellectual knowledge with knowing Jesus; or we think that the end goal is to simply increase in learning. While I love to learn and grow in all areas of teaching, I also realize that Jesus is looking for more than just smart people. In the gospels we see Jesus engaging at different times with the religious leaders, they usually have some trick question that they think will stump him- what were they doing? They felt like if they could ‘catch him’ in a contradiction, then that would prove to them that they were still the elites of the day and that this Jesus was just another one of the so called messiahs. But in every case Jesus would respond with a short, quick answer that would dumbfound the questioners. You got the feeling that he could have easily blown everybody away with his intellect, but he didn’t use his wisdom in that way. What we consider to be the best teachings of Jesus are his parables and the great Sermon on the Mount; though these teachings are great, yet they are simple. They call us to the Christ like life, not just to a life that knows more about Christ. In the above passage Paul tells the Ephesians that God is building us into a mature body of people who will express Christ to the world. The gifted people are not just great speakers who the people gather around weekly to listen to- they are carpenters who are building the people of God until we all come to a unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. God wants us to ‘grow up INTO him’ that is to be formed into a mature body of people- God is looking for real growth, not just a bunch of people who have all the best answers.

 

[1490] ‘Don’t walk as unbelievers, in the vanity of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the LIFE OF GOD thru the ignorance that is in them… put off the former way of life, which is corrupt and be renewed in the spirit of your mind… put away lying and speak the truth to your neighbor’ Ephesians 4:17-26. A few years ago I had a new neighbor move across the street, we became friends and he too was a believer. Lots of my friendships are mentoring type situations where I help people out and we become connected as a true brotherhood. In some way my friend Dave sort of looked to me in that way; he would have questions and I would do my best to answer, I would help him run errands and stuff, and if I didn’t talk to him regularly he would get offended- he would ask ‘Have I done something wrong’? Dave suffers from grand maul seizures and has been on disability for years. I noticed over time that Dave liked to ‘tell stories’ I mean stories that he ‘thought’ were true, but they obviously were not- I mean fantastic stuff. I did not judge him for this flaw; I chalked it up to his many medical problems and left it alone. Dave would regularly get into conflicts with his neighbors, one day he grabbed a next door teen who was running down the street; the teen beat Dave up pretty brutally. He had a tendency to cross many lines in his speech and actions, after a while I realized Dave had a past history of altercations like this- the cops told the neighbors that they have had many calls over the years that involved Dave. The other night my wife came home and said she had heard that someone was shot to death around the block the evening before; yes, Dave shot to death the neighbor who he shared a common back yard fence with. I don’t know all the details and I plan on going over in a few days to talk with his wife and try  and help them as much as possible. The story is that Dave was walking his dog and got into some kind of argument with the man and shot him multiple times on his property. Not good. I was always concerned that Dave would tell me so many ‘stories’ over the years, it was more of a compulsion than anything else. But to engage in regular lying is also a sin. The apostle Paul tells us that we are to put away all of the former things and ‘put on’ the new man. He says that the ignorance in the minds of the unbelieversseparates them from God- not just from knowledge about God, but from God himself. We are to be renewed in the spirit of our minds and put on the new man. He tells us not to lie to one another, because we are members of each other and it is like doing harm to your own family. Over the years I have prayed for Dave, and I now realize that he will become a named regular on my list- one who I will mention by name in prayer weekly for many years to come. I have done this many times before and actually have a few local names that I am doing this with now. I often read a news story about a believer or a person arrested for a serious crime and I mention their name during a routine time of prayer when I pray for God to restore those who have fallen; Dave will now ‘forever’ be named on that list.

 

[1491] ‘Be ye therefore followers of God as dear children: and walk in love as Christ also has loved us, and hath given himself for us as an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smellingsavour’. Ephesians 5:1-2. The early church had a tag stuck on them- they were called ‘followers of the way’. Paul exhorts the believers to be followers of God; he goes thru the first half of the chapter and speaks about ‘not sinning’ yes- those who commit adultery, lie, cheat, use bad language, these do not inherit Gods kingdom. Strong stuff indeed. The early church saw Christianity more along the lines of being a follower of a person [Jesus] than embracing a set of doctrines. Now, there was a core set of beliefs that the early church did hold to, the New Testament defines it as ‘the faith once delivered to the saints’. Many believe that the statement of Paul in 1stCorinthians 15 ‘Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures…’ many believe that this portion of scripture was first an oral tradition among the early believers; that is they might have used this as an early creed. And the church did have what was called a ‘krygma’ a compact set of beliefs that was considered to be the core beliefs of the Christian faith. The point being we had a concise set of beliefs, but we also had a strict moral code, one that was to be lived by the power of the Spirit, but yet strict as compared with today’s standards. Paul tells the church ‘be followers of God’ we are told to imitate Christ, to be like him. As Christianity progressed down thru the ages many came to define authentic faith as embracing the more orthodox set of beliefs that were being hammered out thru the creeds and councils of the church- some came to see Christianity strictly along these lines. I think it would do us all some good if we began seeing ourselves once again as followers of ‘the way’ that is people who call Jesus Lord and ‘follow God’. Yes, we appreciate and hold to the historic Christian faith, that’s important- but we also ‘follow God’.

 

[1492] ‘submitting to each other in the fear of God, wives submit unto your husband’s as unto the Lord…husbands love your wives even as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it…this is a great mystery, Christ and the church’ Ephesians 5. The apostle tells us that in marriage the 2 become one, just like our ‘marriage’ to Christ. In 1stCorinthians Paul rebukes them for a specific sin; incest, fornication. He tells them that when they sleep with a person outside of marriage that the 2 become one- he then says ‘shall I take the members of Christ and make them the members of a harlot’. The point he makes is as Christ’s body we are actually parts of him. The various debates that the church has had over the communion table have centered around whether or not the elements become the actual physical body and blood of Jesus. One of the sad things that has happened is while we have had this debate [centuries old] we have missed the agreed reality that yes, our bodies are actually considered parts of Christ. These verses have also come under fire over the years because they speak of the wife submitting to the husband- the reality is this submission is not some type of bigoted thing, it’s a willing submission done in love as the husband expresses Christ like love to the wife. Paul said the great ordinance of marriage points to the great reality of us being joined to Christ in a very real way- if you will, it can be said without contradiction that the Real Presence of Christ is in the world today thru the church, the people of God.

 

[1493] ‘children, honor your parents…fathers, raise your children in the fear of the Lord- don’t provoke them…slaves, obey your masters, and masters- treat your slaves [servants] well, knowing that you too have a master in heaven’ Ephesians 6:1-9. Let’s deal with the issue of reading the bible in its cultural context. When the church was birthed in the 1st century, she was born into a Roman society that dominated the known world- yet Rome was not stupid, they had a policy of conquering people and allowing these groups to self govern as much as possible. The Jewish nation actually lived in her own cultural world while at the same time being ruled over by ‘the oppressors’. Rome allowed for a degree of religious freedom. They had their Pantheon of various gods and also did not interfere with the ‘other gods’ of their conquered foes. The problem with the Christians arose because the believers would only acknowledge one God [like the Jews] they would not say ‘Caesar is Lord’ but only Jesus. This drew a strange accusation from Rome; the Christians would be seen as atheists! Yes, atheists in the sense that they would not accept the Roman gods. Now, into this mix the church had to deal with the problem of not being seen as insurgents who were trying to overthrow the ‘God ordained’ govt. of Rome [book of Romans]. They did their best to not be seen as a rebellious movement. This, in my opinion, is why we do not read statements in the New Testament that encourage the overthrowing of slavery. Instead you find admonitions like the one in the above passage that exhort both slaves and masters to live together as much as possible in peace and harmony. I do not see the New Testament [taken in this cultural context!] condoningslavery for all time; but what I see is an early effort by the fledging church to live in peace and order at a time when the ruling authority watched closely over her people. It is true that during the struggle to free the Black salves, many southern preachers read these verses in a way that said ‘the bible tells us not to overthrow slavery, but to treat each other as fellow believers while allowing the institution to survive’. Yet you had men like Charles Finney, wellknown for his role in the 2nd great awakening that took place in the 19th century, Finney was an outspoken opponent of slavery and did all he could to stop it. So the church has had people on both sides of the issue. As we read the new Testament, one of the main themes is that Christ has come to set men free from bondage [slavery] the apostle himself will teach that inJesus ‘there is neither slave nor free- we are all one in Christ’ the overall teaching from scripture is that Christ died to set men free, so as the church would grow over time we would get to a place where God would raise up voices [in due season] that would speak out against the oppression of the slave trade. To appeal to the immediate concern of Paul in the first century as expressed thru these passages [the concern of believers not being viewed as rebels who overthrow order in society] and to read these same passages centuries later in order to justify slavery is reading the bible out of its cultural context. We should also be aware that there are other issues that the church in our day struggles with, many appeal to this line of reasoning while dealing with homosexual relationships, ordaining gay people to the pulpit and other stuff like that. It’s not my purpose to deal with everything right now, suffice it to say that I do not personally see these 2 issues as civil rights issues that fall into the same category- undoing slavery and accepting homosexual marriage are not the same thing in my book- but to be aware of the way believers have approached these issues is important for our day. There were many well meaning believers/preachers who read these passages and took them literally to mean that it was wrong for slaves to rise up against ‘their masters’ and rebel, these preachers appealed to the direct words of scripture while making their point- it’s  just they were not reading the scripture in its true cultural context.

 

[1494] ‘Take everything the master has set out for you, well worn weapons of the best materials…be prepared, you’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon the father has issued…learn how to apply them, you’ll need them thru out life…prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. PRAY HARD AND LONG! Pray for your brothers and sisters…and don’t forget to pray for me, that I’ll know what say and the courage to say it at the right time, telling the mystery to one and all’ Ephesians 6. Paul ends the letter by exhorting the church to put on her armor- things like right living, salvation, faith, all basic characteristics of the Christian life. He warns them that they are not in a physical warfare but a spiritual one, up against dark forces and evil rulers in positions of authority. He urges them to pray- pray for each other, pray for me! He is not afraid to admit he needs prayer. Recently the actor Mel Gibson has been in the news for lots of personal problems. I remember a few years back Mel made a commitment to follow the Lord- and I believe he was sincere. Yet the media has used him as a court jester in recent weeks. I pray for the man, we should all be on the lookout for one another, lift each other up in prayer. If you here a rumor about somebody, then pray for them. One of our other weapons is the gospel of peace on our feet. There is another scripture that says ‘blessed are the feet of those who bring the good news’. In the Old Testament when nations fought, the way the king kept informed about the warfare was a runner would run from the battle and bring the news. You could tell from a distance whether the news was good or bad, by the ‘step’ of the runner. If the news was good then the runner had this exciting run that you could tell he was eager to get to the king; but if the news was bad you could read it in the hesitance of the runner. Paul said we have the feet of the one who brings the good news; people see our step and know that the message is one of reconciliation and peace- this surely is the message of the church. As I close this brief look at the letter to the Ephesians, let’s put on the armor that the Lord has given us- not a bunch of spiritual warfare techniques of doing ‘3rd level heavenly attacks’ against territorial spirits! But by walking in the Spirit and continuing in prayer FOR one another. We also have the great high priest, Jesus, who makes intercession for us. We have the Spirit who intercedes for us with groanings that cannot be uttered; we have an entire armory of spiritual accessories that are not even dependent upon us! Run the race well, put on the armor and tell the great story of the Cross as much as possible- that’s the message that the world needs to hear.

 

[1495] THE NAACP VERSUS THE TEA PARTY- The last few weeks the media has been reporting on race issues; both the liberal and conservative news organizations have been playing to their audience. Fox news has reported on the NAACP’s meeting where Benjamin Jealous [the president] called on the Tea Party to reject racist elements in their ranks. Fox has pointed out that they have never made the same plea to Farrakhan or other radical black groups. Fox has also been playing the video of the New Black Panther member who has said he ‘hates all crackers, they and their babies need to be killed’. On the other side you have MSNBC branding Rand Paul and Sharon Angle [republican primary winners] as racist nuts who want to undo the civil rights laws and go back to the stone age- Sharon Angle happens to be a Christian ‘soccer mom’ who got into politics years ago out of a sincere desire to change things for the better- Paul is a libertarian who has expressed views that he felt that it was wrong for the govt. to intervene in personal matters in general, and his objection to the civil rights laws were on this basis. He is not a racist who wants to undo civil rights, though I personally do not hold to his views. The point is that both sides of the political spectrum are stirring stuff up. And last night a Black woman who worked for the govt. was caught on video tape saying how she discriminated against a White farmer who came to her for aid; she resigned. A few weeks back I was in a situation that I haven’t been in for a long time; I was stuck in another town without a vehicle. My truck was down and I had no ride home. So I figured I would start walking and maybe hitch a ride. I also had left my cell phone home. After a while I decided to stop in a store and call someone for a ride. I do look a little like a hippie and have been mistaken for a bum a few times. So as I approach the counter and buy the bottle of water in my hand, I ask the ladies if I could use the phone; they made all types of excuses- I wasn’t going to get to use it. Some gang type looking kids overheard my conversation and they offered me their cell phone to use. I walked another few blocks and decided to stop at another store and call a taxi. It was getting late and I was in some strange town and there were lots of gang type looking kids out and about- to be honest it didn’t bother me in the least, I felt pretty comfortable. I went into the store and asked the cashier if she had a phone book so I could call a taxi, this store had a pay phone. After looking for the book for around 10 minutes, another ‘gang’ looking kid told me he had the taxi number in his cell phone in the car- sure enough he did! He let me make the call from his phone and the taxi was on the way. As I sat outside the store, cars coming and going, I noticed a Black kid [19?] checking me out. He walked back and forth a few times and I saw him go to his car, he was getting something. As I was sitting there by the tire air pump, away from the customers- he started walking over to me. I was in a spot where people did not have to go passed me to enter the store- he was purposefully coming my way. As he got closer I saw he had something hidden in his hand; I figured ‘what the heck, I can’t do anything at this point’ so I simply gave him a ‘hi, what’s up?’ type thing. He pulled his hand out and gave me the surprise; around 2 dollars in quarters- he thought I was a homeless bum. As the ‘race wars’ heat up in the media, we need to remember the value that God gives to human beings. When Jesus said ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath’ he was telling us that there are times when institutions that have laws, even good laws, that if we begin exalting the law [illegal immigration laws] and pushing them to a point where we don’t see the real need anymore, instead we see the law as the important thing- then we are missing out on the value of the person. The only people that helped me in my ‘journey home’ were a few Hispanic gang looking kids and a young Black man. The ‘more noble’ store owner/workers looked for ways to get me out of their stores! In this ongoing debate over race, keep what’s important at the fore front- God values people more than laws. Yes, God gave us law and govt. as a good thing, a thing that would benefit man; but if we lose sight of the plight of people- even those who have broken the law by coming hereillegally- if we lose sight of their real struggles, then we have forgotten what it means to truly loveourneighbor as ourselves.

 

[1496] A BALL CAP- A few weeks ago I wrote a post on the death of one of my homeless friends. His namewas Bill. Over the years I would get with Bill often and we would hit all the buffets in town, I have done this hundreds of times with my homeless friends and they love it. A few years ago the mission where I meet lots of the guys held a fundraiser; they had someone paint a beautiful oil painting of Bill at the homeless camp. It looks fantastic. The artist donated it to sell, and someone bought it and gave it to the mission. I always thought when Bill passes away I will ask if they wouldto sell it to me. To be honest I hoped that they would just give it to me being I donate lots of time and money to the guys; the mission has people on salary who are making money and all- I spend my own money helping the homeless. So any way the other day I was at the mission and I figured it was time to make the request. I went to the office of the lady who is in charge; there on her wall was the prized possession. I introduced myself to her and explained to her who I was and why she has seen me at the mission for years; she thought I was simply one of the crowd [good!]. But this day I had to explain my ministry to her, I was hoping to get the painting. As I talked with her I realized that she simply was doing a job, as I told her how me and Bill were good friends and I have spent many years and hours with Bill, she accidently spoke bad about Bill. She simply expressed the same view that many people ‘in the world’ have expressed. Basically that Bill was lazy and dirty. I know she did not realize that I was coming to the table as a friend and witness for the homeless- over the years many of the homeless have been treated with disdain by the workers at the missions. You have a few people that the homeless like and appreciate, but you have many workers/volunteers that seem to be doing it out of a guilty conscience or a job; these often express disdain towards the homeless and the homeless pick this up. So as I talked with ‘Kay’, seeing the painting of my friend on the wall, I realized she was not going to sell me the painting [I did not ask for it for free- though I felt this would have been a fair thing to do being I have spent so much time and money personally helping Bill!]. I then found a way to cut the small talk and get back with ‘the population’. These last few weeks I have had truck problems, I have had to pick it up from a tow yard- take it to a mechanic, and work on it myself. All thru this ordeal I kept noticing some red ball cap that was getting thrown all over the truck as I was messing around with it. I thought ‘geez, I should just throw this old cap out’. Then I realized it was an old super bowl cap that belonged to Bill- Bill was a football fanatic, he loved the Cowboys. I thought to myself, geez; let me hang this cap up as a reminder of my good friend Bill. I didn’t obtain the prized panting of Bill, but I have this red cap hanging right over my head as a good reminder of a friend who is in a better place right now.

 

[1497] ‘Guilt is the loss of the integrity of the soul, and the soul’s recognition of that loss’ Thomas Aquinas. I heard this a while ago and liked it. It has been said that man is the only creature with the ability to self evaluate; we can look back on our lives and make course corrections by Gods grace. I have been reading in the gospel of John a little- Jesus is talking to the disciples [John 14] and he’s getting ready to ‘go away’ he has spent time with them and tells them ‘the words that I have spoken unto you are not my own, but the Father that dwells in me- he does the works’. Notice, his revealing of God to his men was not so much an intellectual pursuit, but a thing he lived out among them. ‘The father is doing these works’ they ask him to show them the father and he tells them ‘I have BEEN with you for a while now, why do you ask me to show you the father’? His incarnation was the only way that God could reveal himself to man, there was nothing more that Jesus could say or teach that would trump the revelation of God to them by Jesus simply being with them for 3 years. He tells them that after he leaves he will send the Spirit and the Spirit will more fully reveal to them what’s going on, he will bring to their remembrance the things Jesus taught them- in essence they will have many ‘aha’ moments- times where they will say ‘now we see what he was talking about’. Saint Thomas taught that there will be times in life when we experience real guilt, not condemnation, but honest to goodness guilt. That thing the world thinks is bad, the therapists try to ‘soothe’ by saying ‘it’s not your fault’ but sometimes things are our fault! We have the ability to look back and say ‘now I see some of the mistakes I have made, things that I didn’t fully understand until now’ and this process is a good thing, something that we should expect to happen. Many believers practice a daily examination of their souls. At the end of the day they look back on their day and ask the Lord to show them any faults and they pray for forgiveness ‘I confess to  almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters- that I have sinned thru my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words- in what I have done and in what I have failed to do’ trust the Lord today to lead you in right paths, and at the end of the day allow him to reveal to you the things that you don’t fully see right now, and if at the end of the day you realize you have gone off course, then yes- you have experienced guilt- the soul recognized some loss of integrity. That’s a good thing, not bad.

 

[1498] ‘THE WORDS THAT I SPEAK ARE NOT MY OWN, BUT THE FATHER THAT DWELLS IN ME- HE DOES THE WORK’ Jesus Christ. In John 14 Jesus tells his men that he and the Father will manifest themselves unto them; they ask ‘how will you manifest yourself unto us and not unto the world’? Jesus responds that those who love him will keep his commandments, and to these he will come and dwell with them by the Spirit. The world [unbelievers] have no thirst for this. Of course the question would be ‘which commandments’? Most of us are familiarwith the big 10; others see certain Christian practices as the most important- going to church on Sunday, tithing, etc. The writer of this gospel [John] also wrote the 3 smallerletters [1st, 2nd, 3rd John]. John seems to see the law of love as the supreme commandment, of course he gets this from Jesus own words. Jesus at one time was asked what the greatest commandment was, and he replied ‘to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and might’ and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Did Jesus just pick this out of the air? No, he was actually quoting the person that the Jews looked to as the great law giver- Moses. Moses, the man famous for receiving the 10 commandments at the hand of God, yes he was the one who had such a grasp of the character of God that he was able to sum up the 10 commandments as these 2 universal laws. When we love God and our neighbor we will be put in a ‘place’ where God will speak to us- when we live in true community we will see and experience God thru one another. A while back I had a friend who began hanging out with me and some of the homeless guys- he too was homeless. He didn’t look the part, always clean shaven, worked regularly, but yet he was homeless. My friend had some background with the Lord, he knew the bible and it was easy to see that he had been a believer for many years. At the time I had just finished reading Frank Viola’s Pagan Christianity- the book stirred up a controversy and I was careful to whom I would recommend it. But Iknew Robert had expressed some of these beliefs in the past and I thought he would like it. He read it and did like it, but oneday he emailed me and asked ‘do you know where I could findan ‘organic’ church to join’? He made the mistake of thinking he could find true community in some meeting, that is if he found ‘the church’ with the right answers [concerning organic church] that he would then attend these church meetings [as opposed to the institutional church] and then he would have arrived. What myfriend was missing was the fact that much of the daily community things we were doing at the time- getting together as a group of friends, sharing the word at certaintimes, and yes, having meetings every so often- that the actual daily helping of one another and identifying as believers was in itself a true expression of community. Jesus told his men that when they loved God, and each other, that it was in that environment that God would reveal himself to them. John himself would later write ‘how can you say you love God, who you cannot see, if you don’t love your brother who you can see’? I fear we live in a day where other things have taken precedence over the value of ‘our brother’. We have our political ideas, our theological slants, our ‘better’ beliefs than the church down the block-and these things become the main thing to us, often at the expense of truly loving our brother. Jesus was giving us the words of God, not men. He quoted the great lawgiver of the Old Testament; the main ‘philosopher’ of the Jew of his day- if Moses said it, then surely it must be so.

 

[1499] ‘Abide in me…I did the works that no one else did…I spoke the words that no one else spoke…because of this they have no more excuse for sin’ Jesus, John’s gospel chapter 15. It’s interesting to see that in this context Jesus was speaking to the religious class of his day; not ‘the sinners’. Jesus ministry and style were one where sinners would be drawn to him, they did not feel justified in their sin, but they for once felt hope and acceptance after years of guilt and condemnation. On the other hand the religious leaders were rebuked by what Jesus did and said- he violated their perceived ideas about God and ministry. Overthe years I have heard many good men teach that as an individual believer you really don’t have the resources to ‘touch the world’ many have said ‘it takes thousands and millions of dollars to preach the gospel, you can only do you part if you chip in to this huge organization’. What these sayings do is in effect contradict the word of God. It leavesbelievers with the mindset that they really can’t have an effect unless they send money to a huge Christian ministry. But Jesus taught contrary to this; he told his men when he sent them out ‘don’t think you need a lot of equipment for this- you are the equipment- no special appeals for funds, keep it simple’ [message version]. The apostle Paul told the Ephesians ‘he that stole, steal no more, but WORK so YOU CAN HAVE MONEY TOGIVE TO THOSE WHO NEED IT’. And Paul addressed the church leaders at Ephesus, Acts chapter 20, and he told them ‘all the time I was with you I worked with my own hands to provide for myself andthose who were with me-I did this to leave you guys an example’. The point is there is a lot of New Testament teaching on individual believers, working and living as normal people, not starting big organizations that collect/appeal for funds, who actually are having an impact in the world. It can be argued that the New Testament pattern is one of community and not one of nonprofit ministry. Many years ago I received a word that said ‘in your future ministry you will have no models to follow, thru your deeds and words you will show people Jesus’ ways’. Over the years I have tried to leave the example that you don’t need to appeal for money, you don’t need to see ministry as gathering all this money to do a great work- but you can simply work a real job [I was a firefighter for25 years] and simply use your own money to do what God requires you to do- show mercy, do justice and love God and man. Jesus spoke and modeled in such a way that the normal way of doing ministry [the Pharisees of his day] felt convicted by the fact that he was doing things that they had abandoned long ago, he seemed to be violating the structures that they deemed important [healing on the Sabbath day]. Where are you at today? Leaders, have you simply modeled a way of church and ministry simply because that’s all you have ever known? It’s easy to get caught up in the rut of ‘ministry’ to go down a business type format that unconsciously makes void the word of God. Remember, Jesus taught us that we do not need to start with the mindset of collecting offerings/tithes from people, there are many examples [like the ones above] that appeal to believers to live simple lives, work for a living, and simply share the money you have with those in need. Don’t get caught up in the modern scenarios where we tell people ‘you really can’t have an effect by yourself, you need lots of money to have an effect’ the scriptures simply don’t teach that.

 

[1500] DO NOT FEAR THE REPROACH OF MEN- THE REPROACHES OF THEM THAT HAVE REPROACHED YOU HAVE FALLEN UPON ME- Isaiah. The other day I had the opportunity to walk across the street and talk to my neighbor who shot and killed a man last week. I thought he was in jail, but my kids said they saw him. So I spoke with Dave, I shared these verses with him; I think they spoke to him. He is waiting for the grand jury to meet and decide on his case. He and his wife are struggling with the stigma of being a ‘murderer’- Dave battles with what all the people are saying, some true and some false. I explained to Dave that reproaches are the things people say about us in a negative way. People can live in fear simply by going around and thinking about the accusations against us. I told my friend that these accusations [whether true or false] were laid upon Jesus at the Cross- we don’t need to carry them anymore. The other day I channel surfed the religious stations and heard a few minutes of preaching that I haven’t listened to in years. It’s not that there bad people, it’s just the whole style of flashy charismatic preaching/ministry is not my cup of tea anymore. I caught a brother from Dallas, has a worldwide ministry; he was talking about going ‘thru hell’ and all the trials and difficulties he is facing; most of this sort of preaching, thoughtrue, is centered on the trials and struggles that come from the fame and pressure of modern ministry. That is the heads of ministries that have a national persona are usually coming at it from the angle of the things you go thru while being the center of attention. While these men are for the most part good men, yet it’s difficult for the average saint to identify with these types of struggles. It takes time to see that the Jesus of the gospels has given us a different mandate, one where we all share the burdens of one another in the simple reality of daily life; ministry and Christianity are based upon humble principles, we need to re-evaluate what we are presenting to the world as ministry. I am not sure what is going to happen to my friend, I will continue to pray for him and his wife and will try and spend more time talking to him; he was so glad that I took the time to walk over and spend some time fellowshipping with him; he was under the weight of the reproach of men- I simply reminded him that these reproaches were taken at the Cross.

 

[1501] MICHAEL- Michael is a homelessfriend that I met many years ago; his family was in the Navy and he wound up living on the streets after they moved on. Michael is one of the guys that has obvious mental issues. He is smart and talented, he does great art work- but you can tell that something has happened to him along the road of life. It seems as if he might have had a ‘bad trip’ on acid or meth at one point in his life. He reminds me of myself in a way, having had some bad experiences with acid when I was younger. Over the years I would run into Michael at different stages of the journey, he would eventually buy a junk car- it ran and served its purpose. He worked as a dishwasher for a while. The last time I saw Michael he had gotten an apartment with subsidized housing, he seemed to be doing well. Michael also did tattoos, he would show me some of the art he would draw for the tattoos- he even made some firefighter stuff after he met me. He like drawings that had to do with fire fighting. The reason I mentioned Michael today is because I had a dream about him earlier and felt led to pray for him. Michael is a good friend; he actually came by the house a few times over the years. You could tell that he normally would not ‘talk religion’ but we became real friends and every now and then he would either say something or show me some art that had to do with the Lord- sort of out of a courtesy to me. It’s important to make some friends along the way, not just people you are targeting for conversion, but real friends. After they get to know you as a real person they will feel comfortable enough to ask you things about God, things that they always wanted to ask but were afraid to ask. Jesus said we should love our neighbor as our self, go find a neighbor.

 

[1502] HAGGAI INTRO- Haggai is one of three post exilic prophets; he returned to Jerusalem around 520 B.C. and prophesied at around the same time as Zechariah. The other post exilic prophet is Malachi. Haggai spoke at a time when the Jews, who returned to their land after being held in captivity, were discouraged about rebuilding Gods temple and they needed to be reminded about their priorities. The Jews returned to their land with excitement and dreams of rebuilding what was destroyed by their enemies, yet after their return they faced opposition and accusations by their enemies. These accusations eventually stalled the work of rebuilding the temple and Haggai prophesied for them to get back to the work. He spoke to the governor, the high priest and the population at large. An oft repeated word from the prophet is ‘consider your ways’ he tells them they need to get their priorities in order if they want to see the land renewed. They were under an economic drought and their land was not producing fruit- the prophet says they need to get back to seeking first God’s kingdom and then he will take care of the rest. Much of Haggai’s message is timely for our day [2010] many feel if we just do the right economic move then we will overcome the recession, yet at the same time the country has made bad moral decisions [extending abortion funding] and we seem to think that these things are not related to each other. Haggai told the people that their economic problems were a direct result of not seeking God. As we do this short study over the next few days, go read the book- It’s only 2 chapters long. See if you can spot the 4 individual prophetic messages that make up the bulk of the book.

 

[1503] HAGGAI 1- The prophet rebukes the people because they were saying ‘it’s not time for the Lords house to be built’ yet at the same time they were busy ‘dwelling in their nice roofed homes’. Haggai tells them that’s why they were experiencing economic judgment; because they were seeking first their own wealth and neglecting the house of God. Whenever I deal with these types of verses I always try and remind the reader that these verses are not talking about fixing up the church building! But the New Testament comparison would be neglecting the actual health and growth of the Body of Christ, the community [house] of God. Read Acts 6 and 1stCorinthians. The prophet rebukes the leaders and he tells them to consider their ways; think about what you are doing and make the proper course corrections. The people listen to the word of the Lord and they begin renewing their lives back to the purpose of God. It’s important to remember that at this stage the people had already come a long way; they were brought back from captivity and they had begun the work of restoration. But the books of Nehemiah and Ezra show us how after a season the people became discouraged, they could not see how much progress they had already made. The writer of Hebrews encourages the believers to not lose heart ‘God is faithful; he will not forget the love that you have already shown to the saints’. Sometimes during seasons of discouragement it’s easy to think ‘what’s it all worth, I have labored in vain’ [Isaiah].It’s at those times we need to hear the prophetic word ‘God is still with you, you have not chosen me- I have chosen you’! Haggai’s message was simple; look at where you are at, examine whether the things you are doing are consistent with your purpose in life- and redirect as God leads. It’s the life story of Israel all thru out the Old Testament, the apostle tells us that these things were written so we too might not make the same mistakes as them [Corinthians]. Today if you will hear his voice, harden not your heart.

 

[1504] HAGGAI 2- The prophet asks the people ‘does this second temple and its rebuilding pale in comparison to the first one’? Yet even though what they ‘saw’ in the natural seemed less, yet God said his glory would actually be greater in this second house. We read in the other prophetic books [Ezra?] that when the Jews that returned to the land looked at the foundation of the second temple while it was being laid, that they mourned and cried, they felt let down because to them the former days would never be the same again; yet God was going to do a greater work [in depth] than what was done earlier. The book of Hebrews tells us that God takes away the first so he can establish the 2nd. This was speaking of the passing away of the Old Covenant and the bringing in of the New. Jesus also said that those who were ‘drinking of the old wine’ [partaking of the law] would not quickly be swayed to drink the new [accept Jesus and his New Covenant Blood]. So the prophet exhorts the people to be encouraged; even though this restored temple doesn’t look grand, it will contain more valuable glory. The prophet tells them ‘get back to work, don’t give up on the vision yet’- basically the people were at a point of discouragement and passivity, they really didn’t need a new game plan, they simply needed to work the plan they already were given! Sometimes we use the excuse ‘God is calling me to a new work’ while it is true that changes occur in the Christian walk, yet sometimes we abort the mission because the obstacles seem too great. Be encouraged today to do whatever it is the Lord has given you to do- the prophet said ‘is the seed still inthe barn’? Then for heaven’s sake go and do some planting! You say ‘but what if some of the seeds don’t make it’? Hey, Jesus said 3 out of 4 wouldn’t! But if youdon’t start planting you will never get the return on the few that do make it. Haggai was a prophet who spoke to the nation at a crucial time in their journey, he exhorted them to ‘consider their ways’ he told them they were brought back to the land for a purpose- yet they seemed to lose sight of that purpose and they fell into a survival mentality, they began living just to survive. I want to challenge you today, what are you living for? Is your life’s goal simply tomake it? To exist long enough to collect social security and retire? God has a purpose and plan for your life, and it doesn’t revolve around you! Find your place in this ‘second temple’ [the Body of Christ] and get to work, do what you can do- if some of the seed doesn’t make it, that’s fine, the ones that do make it will be worth it all in the end. And forheaven’s sake, get up and get to work! Jesus said ‘don’t say the harvest is month’s away, look on the fields- they are ripe and ready to harvest, but the workers are few. Pray that the Lord of the harvest would send laborers into the harvest’. Isaiah said ‘here am I, send me’- how bout you?

 

[1505] GIVE TO THE POOR AND YOU WILL HAVE TREASURE IN HEAVEN- The other day I was talking to someone about the story in Luke chapter 12; the rich man whose farms were producing a lot and he said to himself ‘I will tear down my barns and build greater ones and say to my soul ‘soul, you have much goods for many years’- Jesus said the man would die that night and then who will get his stuff? Later on in the chapter Jesussays ‘give alms [charity- helping the poor] and you will have treasure in heaven that thieves won’t be able to touch’. As I shared the story I asked the person if they ever thought about how many times the New Testament relates giving by giving to the poor. The famous verse that most teachers use to teach ‘tithing on Sunday’ is 1stCorinthians 16, in actuality Paul is telling the believers at Corinth to take up an offering FOR THE POOR! We simply do not normally see what these verses are saying at face value. I could go on for a long time and show you how this very reality- that the majority of verses in the bible that speak about being faithful stewards [faithful givers] teach it in the context of giving to the poor. Yet the average believer today feels like if he gives 10% of his income on Sunday, that somehow he is fulfilling the mandate of Jesus. I want to encourage you today, as you read thru the bible, pay attention to this very thing- go back and read all the verses that you currently use as ‘tithing’ verses, and see whether or not they are speaking about charitable giving, you will be surprised at the outcome.

 

[1506] CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS- Last night I caught a brief interview of Christopher Hitchens; the atheist intellectual. To my surprise he has had cancer for 2 months and the prognosis does not look good. He was asked whether or not he has changed his stance now that he is dyeing- he stood strong to the end- he said he still does not believe in a God and that if he gets so sick that he loses his faculties and says some type of prayer at death, that it should be chalked up to loss of mind. He mentioned how some web sites have sprung up calling for his death, but there were others that have called for prayer- as a matter of fact they have designated a special day of prayer just for him! The host asked him ‘do you want to ask those Christians not to pray for you’ and he quickly said ‘oh no’ you could sense in his tone that he was hoping; but then he said ‘well, if it makes them feel better, then let them pray’. He also said that sometimes psychosomatic things can have a real effect; sort of like if people ‘pray’ andbelieve a person will get healed; that in some cases it works. He mentioned ‘the Almighty’ in the conversation; he referred to him as a real being, even though he is an atheist. So he basically confessed that prayer sometimes works and that the Almighty exists, though he is an unbeliever. God takes the foolish and causes them to acknowledge him- truly every knee shall bow and every tongue confess. I feel no ill will towards Hitchens, I just mentioned him in prayer- but it should be known that he is part of the crop of current atheists who has gone out of his way to mock and ridicule believers; unlike some atheists of the past who have been more respectful in their denial of God. I heard Hitchens mock mother Theresa after her death, not good. Any person who devotes his life to trying to cause other people to reject the faith, surely he has wasted much of his life. Jesus said it was better to have a stone tied around your neck and dumped into the ocean than for a person to cause a ‘little one’ to be offended. Hitchens has offended many little ones. Let’s pray for the man, and also be realistic about his willful rejection of God- the scripture says the atheist does not reject God on purely rationalisticgrounds, but that he rejects God because of sin. Hitchens, like everyone else, has an appointment with God- it would be better if he spent some time with him before the meeting.

 

[1507] CONTEXT- One of the most important tools to use while reading the bible is reading it in context; that is to read the story as a story- all of the parts should be seen in the setting that they are appearing in. When reading the gospels we should seek to understand as much as possible the times and culture of Jesus’ day. When reading historical sections of scripture we approach it with a more ‘literal’ reading; wisdom literature and poetry have their own sense. And reading apocalyptic sections [Revelation, Daniel] we should see them in their context. Let me just give a brief example of what I mean; many years ago it was popular to read the story of Jesus and Judas and to teach that Jesus must have had a very wealthy earthly treasury because the bible says Judas was ‘stealing money from the bag’ and no one noticed any money was missing. Also the fact that Jesus owned an expensive coat, the one the soldiers ‘cast lots’ for at the Cross. It was common to develop a view that said ‘aha, Jesus was spending the moneyfrom the treasury on gifts for himself; therefore as followers of Jesus we should take the money given thru offerings and treat ourselves lavishly’. Now, why would doing this be wrong? First of allJesus spoke often on the themes of the rich being on the outs with God, and the poor being blessed- he would say things like ‘beware of covetousness, for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses’ or ‘you cannot serve God and money’. But what about the Judas verses brother? As you read the gospels in context you see that the disciples and Jesus had a traveling type ministry [itinerant] people did give gifts to them out of appreciation and love. We have a few instances that tip us off to what the disciples were using the majority of these collected offerings for; at the last supper when Jesus told Judas he knew he was going to betray him, Judas left the tableabruptly. What did the others at the meal think? They thought he was going to distribute/purchase something for the poor- why did they not think he was going to make a personal purchase for Jesus? Because that’s not what they were using the money for. And when the woman poured the expensive perfume on Jesus, Judas said ‘what a waste, we could have sold this perfume and given the money to the poor’. Now we know Judas wasn’t sincere in this request; but we see that he tried to cover up his hidden agenda by appealing to what the treasury money was really supposed to be used for- helping the poor! So when reading the bible we need to try and look at the whole story, it’s easy to pick a sentence or 2 from any story and make it say what you want, and many sincere believers have done this- but when we mature in our understanding we will be strong enough to see where we have gone astray and by God’s grace make a course correction. There are many teachers/leaders in the church [predominantly on Christian TV] that still present the gospel in this ‘less than’ honest way, many of these teachings are appealing to the average saint, but when we take a sober look at the whole story we see that Jesus did not put priority on the riches of this world- to the contrary he quite often rebuked those who sought them.

 

[1508] FRACTALS- The other day I read a front page news story about a church in San Antonio who shut down the Sunday public meeting and transitioned into home type groups. As I read the story I realized that the church was a church plant from the mega church I attend in Corpus Christi. The pastor is a younger brother who is ex-navy and I remember when he started the San Antonio church. As I read the article I realized that he is struggling, like many other Pastors, with the whole idea of church as being this building where people go and listen to someone speak; he basically has joined a growing number of ‘organic, cell, house, etc.’ church brothers who have been going thru this transition for years. I did find it interesting that he was a church plant from the church I attend in Corpus. The name of the movement is ‘Fractals TV’ they derive their name form a mathematical shape that has the ability to change and adjust, much like the idea of organic church. I of course have written and said [and tried to do!] much of this over the years, and I in no way discount the legitimate expression of church that this movement is trying to develop. As believers we all go thru various stages of growth and understanding as the years go by, it’s important for everyone in the conversation to value grace and mercy above all other ideas; too often the ‘organic’ church versus the ‘institutional church’ becomes an argument where both sides appeal to the scriptures that benefit/back up their positions the most, and after a while the fight does more harm than good in the long run. I have come to believe that there are some pastors, good men, who will never really grasp what the entire organic church movement is really all about; for the most part these are good men who really don’t have the time [or desire] to go back and re-think all that they have been taught about ‘church- ecclesia’ and they simply seek to do Gods will in the environment that they were taught at bible college. These are not wicked men, nor are their churches ‘pagan’ in origin [I know the argument, believe me].But they are simply serving the Lord as best as they can, given the education they were taught- or the church tradition they were brought up in, as far as I’m concerned, more power to them. But the movement of those who begin re-thinking what church is all about continues to increase as the years go by; in God’s timing I believe we will all be able to achieve theunity that Jesus spoke about in John 17- the church of God still has many things that divide us, we need to value love and mercy and longsuffering as we all do our best along the way.

 

[1509] DWELLING IN TENTS WITH ISAAC AND JACOB, HEIRS WITH HIM OF THE SAME PROMISE- Hebrews 11. The other day I decided to listen to Christian radio instead of playing one of the C.D.’s that I own. I often listen to teachings from scholars and theologians while doing early morning chores around the house. So anyway as I listened to some out of town preacher I thought ‘that’s fine, this is obviously not scholarly stuff, but it’s practical’ then at the end of the radio show they said ‘if you would like to order DOCTOR so and so’s tapes’. The problem isn’t that we are not all scholars/theologians- that’s fine, but then when we produce a level of teaching that is basic, and claim to have doctorates [whether honoraryor earned from a catalog type ‘university’] then this makes us look bad. But I also went to my daughter’s house over the weekend and we had a nice B.B.Q. I got the chance to catch a little public access programming that I don’t get at my house; I usually try and watch the local access station to see any local teaching/preaching. I saw the local Calvary Chapel broadcast, never heard the preacher before. He did a basic teaching on Acts and it was scholarly, though the preacher claimed no special credentials. In the above verse Abraham is described as dwelling in a land with other family members, heirs with him of the same promise. That is God brings people together and these individual gifts/callings are tied in together with other believers in your area. We are all believing and waiting for THE SAME PROMISE- not each believing for our own dreams/visions. We need to appreciate the various gifts and callings of others who also are part of the same calling- even if they come from a different tribe. I have no problem listening to a basic type teaching, Paul the apostle, though an intellectual, said when he was preaching at Corinth that he would not use the wisdom/intellect of the world- but he would preach the foolishness of the Cross. It’s okay for a ‘non scholar’ to share at a level of teaching that is high- it’s also fine for a preacher to teach at a basic level, it’s just that we should not be giving out ‘doctorates’ so freely- or producing them ourselves. If it’s truly an earned degree, that’s fine. But when it’s obvious that the level of teaching is not being done at a scholarly level, then it would be better to just call ourselves ‘bother so and so’ instead of ‘doctor’.

 

[1510] THE MOSQUE AT GROUND ZERO- The great reformer, Martin Luther, said that if we teach and preach about Jesus and the bible, yet overlook the issues of controversy that rage at the time; then we are not faithfully preaching Christ. Over the last 6 months or so a controversy has arisen over an Islamic center that is to be built close to the area where the world trade towers went down. As I have listened to the debate [thru talk radio, the main stream and cable news] I have tried to keep an open mind. As I heard a few snippets of audio from the Imam [leader] of the future mosque, I began to wonder whether we were getting the whole story. As of today let me share my view; it seems as if many well meaning people have been told that the first building to be rebuilt after the 2001 attacks is going to be this mosque. Many believe that this building will be a sort of huge Muslim statement that will overlook the entire area and be saying ‘look, we [radical Islam] have conquered’. First of all, the site in question is actually a couple of blocks away from the actual site where the towers went down; though the community center/mosque will be 13 stories high, yet this is really not big compared to the other buildings in the area. The Muslim community actually purchased the property before 9-11 happened, and the Imam is considered to be one of the moderate voices coming from the Islamic community. All in all, it’s not really a ‘stick it in your face’ type statement that the Muslims are trying to make. Number 2- is it unreasonable for people to ask ‘hey, even though you have the right to build the mosque, as a courtesy to the victims who perished at the site, build it somewhere else’. No, this is an honest concern that good people do have- I think it’s not too much to ask the Muslim community to consider moving the location. The governor, David Patterson, kindly offered them free state land if they wanted to move it to another spot. Most of all, I think it does more harm than good to label this Imam as a radical Islamist, all the facts seem to say otherwise. Has he made statements that honest people have problems with? Yes. But overall he is not one of the more extreme type leaders of Islam. I realize that at this time this stand is very unpopular, and it’s too easy to simply jump on the bandwagon and condemn this man, but we want to do our best at being honest about these types of situations. I grew up very close to this area, right across the Hudson river on the Jersey side- there are many Muslims, Christians, Jews and other faiths that make up the melting pot of the area; if we begin singling out the moderate voices, and targeting them as radicals, when they are not, then this will do harm than good in the long run. As believers we should stand strong for our belief that Jesusis the answer, yes even for the Muslim/Arab community, Jesusis the answer. Yet at the same time it does no good to purposefully alienate the more moderate branch of Islam.

 

[1511] Jesus said when people hear the ‘word of the kingdom’ and don’t understand it; that the devil comes and takes the word out of their hearts. Right now in our country there is a rise in anger over the Muslim versus Christian traditions; many have made a ‘cause célèbre’ over the mosque being built close to the 911 tragedy. Over the years as I have studied the various faiths and the history of Christianity, I have come to see that many sincere people of various faiths have been a victim of the ‘devil stealing the word of the kingdom’ from their hearts. That is many sincere people have never truly understood or grasped the real kingdom message of Jesus. As the Christian church progressed thru the centuries, many have come to define the faith as a strict orthodox interpretation of the Trinity, the 2 natures of Jesus, and other historic declarations of orthodox Christianity. While I fully agree and hold to these historic creedal truths, what has happened is the other 2 major world religions- Islamand Judaism- have come to define the historic faith by these statements. They have never really understood the main Christian message of God reconciling man thru Christ. They see Christianity thru the lens of ‘that religion is the religion of western civilization’ and they have never been able to grasp the ‘full world’ nature of the kingdom. A few years ago I had a chance encounter with a Muslim. As we talked I asked him if he knew the history of Abraham and the story of Isaac and Ishmael; to my surprise he was not aware of the story found in the Old Testament. I then did about a 20 minute ‘bible study’ and explained to him how God always had a purpose and destiny for the Arab world- many trace the lineage of the Arabs to Ishmael, the step brother of Isaac. It’s a little too much to do right now, but I tried to break down the cultural barrier of viewing Christianity as an ethnic/western mansreligion, and presented the ‘kingdom’ in a way that he could understand and see the main message of reconciliation of all races of people thru Christ. Too many people define the Christian message as a political agenda- or they see the very technical orthodox interpretations of the various doctrines of the faith- and they never really hear what the kingdom is all about. Jesus said this was a strategy of the enemy to prevent people from coming to the faith. As we are entering into a time of increased tension over Islam, let’s be good stewards of the faith and present a non ethnic/cultural message of acceptance and reconciliation of all nations thru Christ. I am not saying all people will automaticallybelieve in the gospel, but I fear that many of them have never really heard it.

 

[1512] FORGIVENESS- This is a tuff word taken in context of the last few posts; to some it is highly offensive to even discuss the possibility of it being applied to Muslim/Christian relationships. Yet we know that forgiveness is one of the major themes of the New Testament. When dealing with these issues, we often respond by thinking ‘yes, but forgiveness does not mean we should allow others to get away with harming us’ well, to be honest it is the act of us letting people free from the guilt and punishment that they really deserve. It can only truly come into play when people truly do wrong to us, they were wrong and we were right. Then when the wrong is done, we are called upon by God to forgive- yes, to turn the other cheek. Now, I am not advocating a nationalistic passivism; sort of like saying we should never respond to real terror threats to our country, but I am dealing with the underlying sin of personal unforgiveness- that thing in us that says ‘I know these people have done wrong, they have embraced false religion, and they need to be accountable and held responsible for it’. That’s where the problem of unforgiveness rests. As human beings we all have an inner consciousness of justice; we have the abilityto ‘set up court’ in our own minds and we have a tendency to keep replaying the evidence against those who have truly wronged us; then we base our unforgiveness on the real fact that the offending party is actually guilty! But forgiving others is not based upon the real guilt of the offender, no- it is a requirement for those of us who have been forgiven and make up the ‘forgiven community of God’. Jesus told the parable of the man who owed a great debt, the master began the proceedings against him- he was going to lose his house and his family would be held in bondage and he had a bleak future ahead of him, there seemed to be no way out. At the moment of despair he simply begged for mercy ‘please, jut give me some time and I will make this up to you’ sure enough the master forgave him the debt. Then the man went out and found someone who owed him a debt; he then held that man responsible for the debt. Now, this upset the other servants and they told the master about it, the master rebuked the man for not showing the same kind of mercy that he himself received. The man was ‘delivered to the tormentors’. The unforgiving servant had every right to hold the debtor responsible, but he would also pay a price for it. As believers we have ‘the right’ to look at the faults and sins that others have committed against us; we can play the tape over and over again in our minds; but in the end forgiveness is not based upon the reality that others have actually wronged us; it is based upon the fact that we have been forgiven, the master in turn requires us to do the same.

 

[1513] THE LORD THY GOD IN THE MIDST OF THEE IS MIGHTY, HE WILL SAVE; HE WILL REJOICE OVER THEE WITH JOY; HE WILL REST IN HIS LOVE, HE WILL JOY OVER THEE WITH SINGING. I WILL GATHER THEM THAT ARE SORROWFUL FOR THE SOLEMN ASSEMBLY…AT THAT TIME I WILL UNDO ALL THAT AFFLICT THEE…AND I WILL GET THEM PRAISE AND FAME IN EVERY LAND WHERE THEY HAVE BEEN PUT TO SHAME’ Zephaniah 3:17-19. The letter to the Hebrews says Jesus sings among us in the midst of the congregation. Many of the prophetic books speak about God restoring his people. Revelation says Jesus is the light and glory of the ‘city of God’ [the church]. Psalms talks about a river that flows thru us and brings us life and joy [Holy Spirit]. We are the city of God that God himself builds and rejoices over; the city that Abraham and his heirs were looking for as they dwelt in a strange land- a city that hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God [Hebrews]. God promises to gather those from every tribe and tongue [I will gather all nations and tongues and they will come and see my glory…and I will set a sign among them…and those that escape will go to the nations and declare my glory- Isaiah] those that have been ‘shot at’ [‘You will be like a vine planted next to a well whose branches go over a wall…the archers shot at you, yet you bow remained strong…God strengthened your hands’- Jacobs blessing pronounced over his son Joseph- Genesis] and have been thru much difficulty, these are the ones the Lord will gather and send back out to the nations and these will declare HIS glory. Those that have been ‘to the Cross’ have learned the lesson of the vanity of self glory- the lifestyle of trying to live up to the expectations of man, that which the bible calls ‘vain glory’. These can be entrusted with the gospel and the Lord rejoices and sings over them- these are the garden of the Lord that produce fruit because they have learned to abide in him [John 15].I want to encourage you today; have you been struggling with stuff? Have you been confounded, confused? God will take those who have been put to shame and he will gather them as his city, the place where he will dwell, and he will rejoice over you; you will be in a position where you will have influence in all nations and cultures- the Lord will ‘extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the gentiles like a flowing stream’ you will ‘come up over your borders like a river in Judah that overflows her banks’  and you will be like ‘fountains that are dispersed abroad, rivers of waters that flow in the streets’ [various verses from the Old Testament].

 

[1514] PETER CANTU WILL DIE IN A FEW HOURS FROM NOW- It’s early right now [4:45 am] got up around 2:30 and did some early praying. I never heard of Peter before, last week I read that he would be put to death today, so as my custom goes- I pray for the guys the last few days of their lives. I actually thought he was to die yesterday, but I saw a short clip of him on the news last night, today’s the big day. Peter was in some gang and he and a few buddies killed and raped a young girl, they too were young at the time. The other guys have already been executed. I in no way want to dismiss the tragic event for the family that lost their daughter; I just made it a habit to pray for the death row guys a while back. I guess being condemned to the point where society says ‘the only thing we can do for you is execute you’ is hitting the bottom point in life. Jesus said whosever commits sin becomes the servant of sin; sin is a destructive force that manifests itself not only in the violence towards the victim, but also in the life of the criminal. I have also been praying for a few other men who have recently been in the news for various crimes, they were all given long/life sentences. Pray for the victims’ families, pray for the people who have been taken in bondage by sin; Jesus did not come into the world to condemn men, but to save them. I watched the story of Gary Ridgeway, a serial killer. They showed clips from his trial and actual footage from the court. As the victims’ families made angry statements at Ridgeway, one man said ‘I forgive you for what you have done’. Ridgeway broke down and cried at that point. I realize that it would be very hard to see these men thru a lens of compassion and mercy, but that’s how God views them. This is not to say that they should not face judgment for their crimes, it’s just that we should be able to tell them ‘I forgive you, God forgives you’ before they die.

 

[1515] THE CRAIGSLIST KILLER, PHILLIP MARKOFF- Yesterday the ‘craigslist killer’ committed suicide while being held in jail for the murder of a massage therapist he contacted thru craigslist. Markoff was a medical student engaged to another med student, MeghanMcAllister. He was a very unlikely suspect in the case; it seems as if he was leading a double life all along, involved in things that no one was aware of, especially his fiancé. Right after the arrest his fiancé stood by him and defended him; but once she was told about some of the damning evidence [like hiding the items of some of the murdered woman in his place] she quickly began to wonder about her future husband. She broke off the engagement and told Phillip she might not ever see him again. Markoff killed himself on what would have been their first wedding anniversary. The bible teaches us that all men are capable of the most heinous crimes, why some people actually act out on them and others do not, we don’t fully know. A few years ago I read/saw a news story about a judge who was suspected of molesting young boys; as the story broke he killed himself and said it was the appropriate end for a man like himself. You also had one of these crime TV shows arrive at the house of some suspect in Texas; he knew they were coming and they were going to do a ‘gotcha’ moment for the camera- as they knocked on the door they heard the shot that killed him, he would not face the world with his sin. People’s first response to being caught is usually denial, then in some cases people do confess their guilt. But it is very hard for others to accept you and support you while truly believing you are guilty of a heinous crime. True friends will stick with you, and sometimes family members believe the accused in the face of great odds; but usually when we come face to face with the depravity of man, we choose to look the other way. I do not in any way blame the poor girl who was caught up in this mess, she will obviously be affected for the rest of her life. Markoff wrote her name in his own blood over the cell door before he took his life. I have made it a habit to pray for the people I read about in the news who have been accused or convicted of terrible crimes- I know we should also pray for the victims- but I trust others are being faithful to that end of the deal. I have recently been praying for some local guys who got sent to prison for life terms, I continually pray for a woman who was convicted of letting a foster son die while under her care [a Christian woman]. Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world, but to save it. He would sit at the last meal with his friends, all along knowing that one of them will betray him. Jesus will still refer to him as his friend and ‘cover’ for him right up until the end- Judas was the one who couldn’t forgive himself, he went out and hung himself. Unconditional love is loving people like Judas, people who have been marked with the stigma of very serious crimes [Markoff, Bundy, etc.] To be able to say to them ‘Friend, I know you have been charged with terrible crimes. I know your first response is to deny the sin; as a friend I am here to walk with you till the end. I do not condone your sin, nor do I base my friendship with you on some sort of self denial of the crime- but I stand here as a friend who accepts the reality that you might very well be guilty of this most heinous crime, and as a friend I am still with you’. Jesus was called the friend of sinners, not just someone who would befriend you when all was going well, but someone who would stick by you till the end, even in the face of severe odds; go find someone who needs a friend.

 

[1516] YOU GOTTA BE KIDDING ME! Okay, the other week I watched a ton of stuff on wormholes, the universe and modern theories of cosmology. I do really get into this stuff, but I couldn’t stop laughing [crying?] at some points. Those of you who have read my evolution section have read posts on Dark matter/Dark energy. In those posts I explained how dark matter, an idea espoused by Alan Guth from M.I.T., became a necessary ‘evil’ [or unknown] in order for modern physics to explain the function of the universe. Basically physics teaches us that you need so much matter to generate enough gravity for the planets and everything else to function properly; the problem is we have never detected the matter. So Guthsaid ‘I know, let’s come up with the word’s ‘dark matter’ andblame everything on that’! Excellent idea isn’t it? But if some Christian did something like this you would laugh him out of the room. So anyway dark matter eventually became the word to describe this UNKNOWN element that holds the universe together- much like the way Chance is used by many in modern theory. So as I watched the programs narrated by Morgan Freeman, I found it interesting that in one show they admitted that Dark Matter really isn’t anything, it’s just a word we use to fill in an unknown blank- exactly what I have been saying for years. But then in the next show in the series, you had a bunch of scientists refer to Dark Matter as a real, proven thing. They were contradicting themselves. But the clincher came when they ran the show called ‘are we wrong about everything’. This one dealt with all these new up and coming scientists who are actually challenging all of the old theories, they even debunked the whole theory of Dark Matter [so I was right all along?]. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad. Then for the grand finale they spoke about a new theory called Dark Flow [these guys just can’tget away from dark stuff!]. This idea says there is this ‘flow’ in the universe that seems to be all going in one direction; that is they think there is some outside force [in theology we call this transcendence] that exists outside of the known universe, and this unseen force might actually be the cause for the functionality of our known universe. In essence they are saying ‘it’s not Dark Matter that causes things to function properly, but it’s this ‘thing’ that exists outside of the universe that is doing it’. Really, this is too good to be true; modern theory is now saying ‘some being/thing is causing this to happen’. Of course Christians knew this all along. The bible says that Christ is holding all things together by the power of his word, this language speaks exactly to the problem of Dark Matter- that is we have never been able to detect by natural means, anything that is ‘big’ enough to be responsible for holding everything together. Christians have believed that the very nature of God is responsible for doing this; he exists and fills in the empty space- the so called function of dark matter. I don’t mean to ridicule these fine men who have given their lives to the worthy pursuit of modern scientific theory, it’s just when their own scientists begin to tell us ‘look, these other guys have been wrong all along’ then we really need to take a second look.

 

[1517] FACEBOOK- The other day I decided to update my face book page, had it for a few months but never gave it any attention. It was ‘cool’ to get back in touch with lots of old friends. As I post simple little thoughts on the site, I felt I needed to avoid being overly ‘religious’ with the posts; now, don’t get me wrong, they can access this blog and I do have the web address posted for all to see- but still felt it to be inappropriate to enter an area where many old friends have had their own ‘space’ for years, and then to blast them with a bunch of stuff. This week I have been reading Revelation chapter 11, in the vision of John he is told ‘take the rod and measure the temple and those that dwell therein, but the court that is outside, leave it out- for I have given it to the gentiles and they shall tread it down…’ God has allowed people to have space, courts if you will, that we as believers are not supposed to ‘measure with the rod’. Now, as Christians we do want to have a witness available to all who want to hear, but we want to be careful that we are not measuring courts that God doesn’t want us to be measuring! I know over the years when I was doing my own thing, I didn’t want to hear or be interrupted with ‘religion’, I wasn’t rude [well maybe I was] but when you are not walking in the light, you don’t want to come to the light [Jesus- John’s gospel]. I love my old buddies, I am getting ready to write an old friend sitting in a N.J. prison right now. Sometimes it’s good to have friends, people you have known thru out your life- be available to talk andanswer questions, but don’t invade their space- the ‘court that is outside the temple leave out, for it has been given to them’.

 

[1518] DIVINE ABSENCE- ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem- you who kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you; how often did I try and gather you as a mother hen her chicks, but you resisted. Truly I say unto you will not see me again until the time comes when you say ‘blessed is he who comes in Godsname’ Jesus- Luke 13. Jesus foretold a period of time when the people he wanted to reach the most would reject him, but after a long absence they would receive him. There is a contested verse in our New Testaments that many end time teachers grapple with; it’s the statement of Jesus when he is talking about end time things. He gives a long teaching on the end of the world [age] and the second coming; and then he says ‘some of you who are standing here right now will not die until all these things come to pass’ or ‘this generation shall not pass until all these things are fulfilled’. I really don’t want to get into the whole debate on exactly what ‘this generation’ is referring to, but we should say that in every other instance this term appears in our Greek New Testament, it is speaking of the actual group of people who are living at the time of the statement. Some conclude from this that Jesus was telling the Jews of his day that in some way many of them would live long enough to see the judgment of God and Jesus coming in judgment on Jerusalem. It’s also interesting to note that the most common interpretation for ‘this generation’ is a 40 year time span. In a.d. 70 [right at around 40 years after Jesus made the statement] the Roman general Titus destroyed the city of Jerusalem and laid it bare to the ground. They lost their temple and it has been gone ever since. The sacrificial system of the law was abolished and it has yet to make a comeback [I believe it never will- but that’s a whole other story]. The main point is some of the people who had no time to listen to Jesus, these same peopleperished in the destruction of the city; others who listened to him remembered that Jesus said ‘when you see the armies surrounding the city, flee’ these who believed Jesus fled; they were spared. It wasn’t a light thing to not hear the words of Christ; it made the difference between life and death for the first century Jews. I want to exhort you today, has God been speaking to you in some way over the years? Have you gone thru a period of ‘divine absence’ that is you haven’t been confronted by the Lord in a while? It’s never too late to make a change, to examine where you are at today and listen to what the Lord has said to you in the past; to some it was the difference between life and death.

 

 

[1458] CONTACT! The other night I caught the movie Contact; I have seen it before but figured I’d re-watch it. The movie pits science against religion; the religious figure [Mathew Mconaughy] is talking to the scientific atheist [Jodie Foster] as she makes her case against God she asks the religious figure ‘are you familiar with Ockham’s Razor’ [wow, isn’t she smart!] and the ex-priest says ‘no, is it some sort of porno movie?’ and of course the atheist goes on to quote the famous saying. Ockham’s razor is the principle developed by William of Ockham that says when you have multiple solutions to a problem that the simplest answer is usually the correct one. Sounds good, what’s the problem? The problem is William of Ockham was indeed a Christian philosopher; he was a contemporary of Thomas Aquinas and John Duns Scotus. They all lived in the high middle ages [13th-14th centuries]. So for Jodie Foster to have appealed to him while trying to make the point that religion and science don’t mix, well it would be like me debating someone on Halloween. I say it never existed as a pagan holiday; you insist it did! As we debate, I say ‘have you ever heard of the term trick or treat’ and you say ‘no, what’s that’. I then changed the channel to the news and they were doing a story on some scientist who supposedly invented synthetic DNA, they then gave the various statements from religious groups who were against it and thought it violated ethics. It was a replay of the same themes of the movie, pitting science against religion. Science and religion are not enemies, the scientific method was invented by the church, most of the greatest minds in science have been Christian [or religious] and even till this very day many of the great men of science are believers. At the end of the movie they gave a short dedication to Carl [Sagan]. Sagan was the famous atheist who said the universe is all there ever was and all there ever would be. The apostle Paul said ‘men chose to worship and serve the creation rather than the creator, therefore God gave them up to reprobate minds’. The other night I watched the special called ‘Hawking’s universe’ I don’t know why they called it Hawking’s, it was a simple rehash of the idea of cosmological evolution, nothing new at all. Let’s make something clear, those who espouse the idea that because we have discovered that most all of the base elements of creation and man are also found in the stars, this in no way proves that men and creation all evolved from stars! This is one of the most ridiculous ideas I have ever heard, and yet many learned men are making this case. Some are saying that when stars explode [novas] that these base elements then form planets and people and monkeys and elephants and- well you get the idea. What mechanism are they giving us that shows us that something like this is even possible? Absolutely none. They are simply making the claim that because we share most of the same matter, that therefore the stars themselves created everything. This is not only not true science, but it doesn’t pass the smell test of elementary school! It would be like me stumbling across some computer disk, and then finding a computer to pop it into. Lo and behold I have found the complete works of Shakespeare on the disk. How did they get there? Sure enough some analyst figures out a way to examine the matter that makes up the disk [not the intelligence on it!] and lo and behold he identifies the makeup of the disk. He then proclaims ‘aha, I have figured out where the works of Shakespeare came from’ and he then goes on to give us the elements that make up the disk. What’s the problem? He simply identified the matter of the disk, he did not identify where the actual intelligence on the disk came from. So when people espouse the idea that the stars ‘made everything’ they are talking absolute nonsense. The only true explanation for the contents on the disk [or the intelligence found in the universe] is the reality that an intelligent agent put the contents there. There is no other rational explanation. Jodie Foster was right- when you have multiple solutions to a problem, the simplest is usually correct. Either the stars made everything [impossible], or God. I’ll go with God.

 

 

(1447) THE BARNES AND NOBLE JESUS?  WAS B.P. A GOD CAUSED DISASTER? Yesterday I saw my recent issue of Christianity Today had arrived, I planned on reading some news papers and catching up on the weeks past events; but[1519] IS BECK A REAL LIFE LARRY DAVID? For all you ‘curb’ fans, Larry David is the type of guy who means well, but he keeps getting into these holes and the harder he tries to dig himself out the deeper the hole gets. In one episode he runs into Richard Lewis, as they are chatting Lewis’ Black dentist just happens to jog by and Lewis introduces him to Larry- Larry makes the remark ‘you let him be your dentist, despite affirmative action’. Now Larry is just kidding, but the dentist gets mad and says he does not have to put up with this stuff and takes off. Sure enough Larry winds up needing the services of the dentist later on and he goes to his house to get a prescription- as he walks in he apologizes again to the dentist who has already forgiven him; but they just happen to be in the middle of the local NAACP weekly meeting and someone says ‘you are sorry for what’? And as hard as he tries to avoid admitting what he said, he winds up telling the story all over again, but this time in front of a bunch of racially sensitive Black folk! Poor Larry. So Glen Beck held his rally at the Lincoln memorial- he had a lot of people show up; between 100 -300 thousand depending on whose estimates you go with; all in all he did fine and spoke in a humble way- sounded like an evangelical preacher! The media portrayed it as a racist rally, while Fox news covered him favorably. For those of you who are not familiar with my blog- if you read the section on race and politics you will quickly realize that I hold both liberal and conservative views on different subjects- I’m not a Fox sycophant, nor do I worship at the feet of Keith Ohberman [whom I personally like]. All in all Beck seems to be a well intentioned guy who is trying his best to do what he thinks is right. To the pure Beck fans, he seems to know his stuff- to his critics he can never do anything right. What do I think of Beck? For someone like myself who has studied political theory and theology over the years, I see in Beck a lot of ‘misinformation’ about stuff; he delves into Liberation theology, not realizing that this has been an issue for centuries. The other week he started getting into the ‘hidden’ history of the U.S., he began giving some of the very unorthodox teachings of Mormonism- the secret history of the city of Atlantis- I couldn’t believe he was doing this on air! I like Mormons and have very in depth discussions with them when they come to the house; but just about every serious historian has totally rejected the Mormon idea of a secret U.S. history- which is a vital part of Mormon teaching. So I see in Beck as a sincere person who has overcome lots of life’s obstacle’s, but needs a few more years of seasoning before he makes it to the big stage. Lots of times he seems like he is standing in the Black dentist’s living room, having to ‘re-tell’ the story all over again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1519] IS BECK A REAL LIFE LARRY DAVID? For all you ‘curb’ fans, Larry David is the type of guy who means well, but he keeps getting into these holes and the harder he tries to dig himself out the deeper the hole gets. In one episode he runs into Richard Lewis, as they are chatting Lewis’ Black dentist just happens to jog by and Lewis introduces him to Larry- Larry makes the remark ‘you let him be your dentist, despite affirmative action’. Now Larry is just kidding, but the dentist gets mad and says he does not have to put up with this stuff and takes off. Sure enough Larry winds up needing the services of the dentist later on and he goes to his house to get a prescription- as he walks in he apologizes again to the dentist who has already forgiven him; but they just happen to be in the middle of the local NAACP weekly meeting and someone says ‘you are sorry for what’? And as hard as he tries to avoid admitting what he said, he winds up telling the story all over again, but this time in front of a bunch of racially sensitive Black folk! Poor Larry. So Glen Beck held his rally at the Lincoln memorial- he had a lot of people show up; between 100 -300 thousand depending on whose estimates you go with; all in all he did fine and spoke in a humble way- sounded like an evangelical preacher! The media portrayed it as a racist rally, while Fox news covered him favorably. For those of you who are not familiar with my blog- if you read the section on race and politics you will quickly realize that I hold both liberal and conservative views on different subjects- I’m not a Fox sycophant, nor do I worship at the feet of Keith Ohberman [whom I personally like]. All in all Beck seems to be a well intentioned guy who is trying his best to do what he thinks is right. To the pure Beck fans, he seems to know his stuff- to his critics he can never do anything right. What do I think of Beck? For someone like myself who has studied political theory and theology over the years, I see in Beck a lot of ‘misinformation’ about stuff; he delves into Liberation theology, not realizing that this has been an issue for centuries. The other week he started getting into the ‘hidden’ history of the U.S., he began giving some of the very unorthodox teachings of Mormonism- the secret history of the city of Atlantis- I couldn’t believe he was doing this on air! I like Mormons and have very in depth discussions with them when they come to the house; but just about every serious historian has totally rejected the Mormon idea of a secret U.S. history- which is a vital part of Mormon teaching. So I see in Beck a sincere person who has overcome lots of life’s obstacle’s, but needs a few more years of seasoning before he makes it to the big stage. Lots of times he seems like he is standing in the Black dentist’s living room, having to ‘re-tell’ the story all over again.

 

[1520] THE GREAT SUPPER- These last few weeks I have felt kind of swamped; I have had some friends [guys I am/was working with in ministry stuff] come by and they are doing well, they wanted to hook up with me in the things the Lord is doing with them. Yet as much as I wanted to get involved [halfway house, fellowship in Kingsville] I just seemed to be unable to ‘get out of the city’. Then I launched my facebook site and it has been great- lots of old friends that I have wanted to contact for years are now keeping in touch, but some felt kind of offended [the Christian thing and all] and I got mad that I have prayed for some of these friends for 30 years and when the ‘supper was ready’ they had no time to sit at the table! In Luke 14 Jesus tells the story of a man that made this great meal[God] and at suppertime [Galatians- when the right  time came God sent forth his Son] the master sent forth his servant and invited all the intended guests to come and eat- I mean the meal was free of charge for heaven’s sake! Yet they responded with excuses- one said ‘I just bought some land, sorry’ another ‘I bought some cattle- can’t make it’ the last one said ‘just got married, wife won’t let me come’ [okay, he’s got a legitimate excuse- sorry]. So when the servant came back and told the master what happened, the master got angry ‘what, I have been preparing this meal for years- everything is ready, it’s good food’. So he quickly sends the servant back out and he goes and gets all the poor homeless bums [sound familiar?] and they fill the house with these guys. He then tells the servant ‘none of those guys who rejected me will eat from the table’. I found it interesting that after the initial rejection the master made a compelling urgent appeal to the others- it’s like the rejection was needed in order for the urgency of the situation to be seen. When I first started posting on old classmates type sites, I simply shared the web site in my profile, but I really didn’t ‘urgently’ post stuff, figured if people are interested they will visit the site. But when I realized some people will not ‘come to the table’ I felt an urgency and went ballistic! I mean I began posting like a bat out of hell! Sometimes it takes stuff to wake us up- to make us reconsider the way we are operating and change some stuff. To all my friends who came by the house, to those who have tried to get in touch- I realize that I can’t personallybe involved with all the various good projects you are all doing-I am going to try this week to make it to the halfway house and hopefully make a trip to Kingsville; but I just want to let everybody know that I am rooting for them, prayingregularly for them [byname!] and am real excited about some of the old friends who have recently joined the conversation. Oh, and to those of you who had excuses, well I guess you guys will find another table to eat at.

 

[1521] DON’T FORGET, TOMORROW IS BURN THE KORAN DAY! Okay, we spent another wasted week talking about the Florida pastor [Terry Jones] who planned on burning 200 Quran’s this Saturday. He made national headlines [Why, please tell me?] and the defense secretary personally called him to put the burning off. Then yesterday he supposedly had a deal with the Imam in charge of the ‘Mosque at ground zero’ and the Pastor said he would not burn the Koran if the Imam would move the location; the Imam denies any deal. Oh, and to bring some seriousness to the matter, yes, Donald Trump offered to buy the ‘mosque site’ for 25% over what the Muslim investor paid for it- the Muslim said ‘no way’ of course he’s holding out for more! It’s times like these that make me want  to change my facebook picture to what Jim Davis has. Okay, what’s wrong with this picture? First, most Christians have come out and condemned the independent church in Fla. that wants to burn the book; I don’t know of any believer that has defended the man, I certainly won’t. Second, the media freely referred to the man as a ‘nut job’ ‘idiot’ ‘jerk’ ‘extremist’ and I even heard MSNBC SAY HE WAS LIKE THE UNDREWEAR BOMBER! Please, as much as I disagree with the man, we do live in a country where people burn flags, bibles, etc. Heck, I remember burning old Rock and roll c.d.’s for heaven’s sake! [Though I own most of them today]. So to compare what this pastor was going to do with extremists who kill cartoonists who depict Mohamed in a Danish cartoon- or to radicals who threaten to blow up Comedy Central because South Park was gonna show the prophet in a bear suit [which was over a Santa suit!] is ridiculous. Radical Islam is wrong, Muslim countries that execute homosexuals and stone women taken in adultery are wrong. Most of these countries have laws that make it illegal to covert to Christianity, never mind trying to build a church or synagogue near one of their holy sites! As all the media hysteria has gone forth [yes, the great Chris Matthews even associated the Fla. Pastor with Sarah Palin and John Boehner! Please give me a break] we have to keep some type of balance. As Christians we condemn the burning of the Koran- though most believers do not accept the Koran as a sacred text, yet many Muslims do. Second, the reality is there is a world full of true nuts who use things like this to kill people- yes, not just a small minority either, but many religious adherents do stuff like this. Remember, it wasn’t just one or two demonstrators who celebrated after 911 happened; there were pictures of thousands of Muslims dancing in the streets after the attack; we should not underestimate the real truth about stuff like this. I do not blame all Muslims for this, but the reality is the radical mindset is much greater than the media portrays it. So we don’t want to put our fighting men and women at any more risk than they are already in. Those of you who know me realize that I am not anti Muslim, but we should be open and honest about the facts; for the media to have referred to this Fla. Pastor as being an extremist, equal to those who blow up innocents, was a travesty. I don’t agree with the pastor or his whole style of independent Christianity [truncated from the historic church] but to put book burning in the same category as blowing up people, well that my friends is what I call extreme.

 

-[1522]Wasn’t sure which way to go today; felt like refuting [or as Sarah Palin says ‘refudiating’!] the recent Stephen Hawking book- he’s basically saying nothing new, and what he is claiming has been shown to be ‘less than true’ [heck, you don’t want the call the man senile, though who knows?]. In a nutshell the book claims that Gravity itself needed no originator, that it created all things, even itself! Yikes! This is a complete violation of the Law of Non contradiction- which states ‘a thing cannot be and not be at the same time and in the same relationship’ for gravity to have created itself [which Hawking is saying!] then it had to ‘be, and not be’ at the same time- not only is this not good science, it is lunacy. For my new facebook readers I’ll try and post a few notes at the bottom. I also just walked passed my T.V. while going into the study, sure enough there was a television evangelist on the tube doing the whole money thing- man if I get into that it will be bad. So for today let me stick a few relevant posts at the bottom and lets all remember the fallen heroes of 9-1-2001. It’s there day for sure.

 

[1523] LUKE 15- In this chapter we find the story of the missing pieces; a lost coin [1 out of 10] lost sheep [1out of 100] and the prodigal son [1 bad son out of 2]. The interesting thing I saw this time around was the response of the people that found the missing pieces, they were so overjoyed about finding the lost thing that it seemed as if the lost piece was more valuable than the other things that never ‘went astray’. Jesus makes it clear that the other ‘non lost’ items’ were just as valuable, the reason for the excitement over the found piece was because it completed the set- it was the last piece in the puzzle, that which was supposed to be in on everything from the beginning- and only now has the missing link be found. Then when the prodigal son came home, the older brother was ‘standing outside’ he was observing the whole scene- to him it seemed wrong that this younger son had rebelled at a very young age, he went to a far country and when he finally showed up back home, the Father [God] killed the fatted calf and had this huge party for the boy. The older son was angry and would not ‘go in’. The dad comes out and says ‘what’s wrong’? The son says ‘you know dad, I spent my whole life doing what I thought was right, I even went to church a few times over the years- never got into the whole drug scene, made a few mistakes, yeah- but nothing even close to this guy who left when he was young. And now he’s back and he has all this stuff going on, this huge party, and look at me- I really have nothing to contribute to the party, me and my friends never had a calf to celebrate with!’. This son was observing the reunion and it just didn’t seem right. The father tells the boy ‘look son, don’t feel bad- you have been trying to do right for a long time, sure you had some struggles, but I see where you’re coming from. Just remember that I have always been with you, I am grateful for all the times you tried and made a sincere effort at honoring me. Don’t take the current excitement over the returning son the wrong way, the only reason for the excitement was because he was gone for so long and finally made it home’. It’s interesting that the son who never left was struggling with this feeling of rejection, this sense of ‘it’s just not fair’. And it did seem unfair that the boy who should have either been dead or serving time in prison; that this kid actually had a bigger party going on than the kid who always tried to do right. Just remember, the father [God] was not saying to the good son ‘I like the other boy better’ he was simply saying ‘now the family is complete, the part that was missing has now come home’.

 

[1524] WEEK [OR 2] IN REVIEW- Okay, I haven’t been commenting as much these past few weeks, basically doing a lot of posting of old stuff. But these last few weeks have been important so let’s do a little. First; the Pope made an historic visit to the U.K. – he went first to Scotland, than England. It was the first official visit- where the titular head [Queen Elisabeth] officially greeted the Pope, the first time since the official split in the 16th century! I kinda covered the history of it in the past and don’t want to do it all overagain here- suffice it to say that Henry the 8th wanted his divorce, the Pope said no and England split off- the church of England [Anglican church] became the official church of England. The EpiscopalChurch in the U.S. is part of this communion. Now, the visit was historic for these reasons, the Pope surprised some church historians by making a speech where he invited the Anglican Church back into the Catholic fold-many thought he would not do this. Actually, it just seemed to be the right thing to do, being it’s the first official visit since the historic split [never mind all the theological issues involved]. So I was glad to see the very good reception he got. Europe in general has suffered from a severe case of rationalism/skepticism that has left many of the great church buildings either empty or they have been converted into Mosques! The Pope challenged them to have both faith and reason, a theme that Pope John Paul emphasized a lot during his pontificate. Overall I think the visit went very well, and all Christians should be happy about it. We also had Newt Gingrich write an article [or comment?] on Obama being an ‘anti colonialist Kenyan’ [Yikes!]. Basically Newt read an article from Dinesh Desouza, a fine Catholic writer/intellectual, who espoused the idea that President Obama is the first U.S. president who has a socialist mindset- that when most European nations went the way of socialism in the last few decades, that the only real holdout was the U.S. But in the economic world all the smart money fled the socialist type economies and would find its way into the U.S., leaving the socialist economies to suffer.  So when Obama became president, as a believer in big govt. [a form of socialism] he would eventually bring the U.S. into alignment with the ‘enlightened’ world and that would balance out the scales. In Desouza’s mind [and Gingrich] this is why Obama is so loved in the rest of the world, while his ratings are not so great at home. Okay, it’s an interesting idea, but a little too ‘Beckish’ for me. But it shows you where the country is at right now, that some serious thinkers are making this case. I like Desouza, he is a fine Catholic Christian, he wrote ‘God is great’ in response to Christopher Hitchens [the atheist] ‘God is not great’ but I have read a few articles from Desouza and I thought he was a little ‘lacking’ in the field of theology [like he really didn’t know his stuff as well as he should have].The liberal columnist Eugene Robinson has basically said the same thing. So any way these last few weeks have had some notable events happen and we should be grateful that no bad incidents took place when the Pope was in England. I was happy to see the good response he got, though I’m not Catholic- as a fellow Christian I respect the effort that the Pope made to defend the Christian faith and to challenge a secular society to return to her Christian roots.

 

[1525] THE UNJUST STEWARD- This week I have been reading Luke 16. Jesus gives us the parable of the manager who was stealing money from the boss; the boss finds out and calls him on the carpet. The manager realizes he will be out of a job and quickly devises a scheme- he goes to all the people who owe his boss money and he gets them to write off a bunch of debt- he basically cheats his boss and endears himself to these people who owe his master a great debt. When the boss finds out about it he commends the manager. At the end of the story Jesus tells us that this manager was wise, and that the ‘children of this world’ are wiser than Christians when dealing with real life stuff. A lot of people question this parable; was Jesus commending dishonesty? Jesus was giving us a strategy- not to cheat- but to side with people and win them over as you advocate for them. In the story the steward released the debt that the people owed. This steward was often seen as the debt collector for the loan shark type of a thing, but now he is actually taking the side of the people, he is helping them get out of debt- and they really are being forgiven the debt, based on no merit of their own! Jesus of course did this for us at the Cross, he came to people who viewed God as a stern master whom they owed a great debt to- yet Jesus sided with people to forgive the debt that they could never pay. For the first time these ‘average folk’ saw the steward/servant take their side- seemingly against the harsh boss! The world is full of people who owe a great debt, they need someone who will side with them- who will risk their own lives to help them against the master whom they owe a great debt to- befriend people, let them know that you are there to help them get out of debt- debt that they could never pay on their own- if you do this the master will commend you.

 

[1526] BARNABUS- This last week I have been doing some reading in the non canonicalbook of the epistle of Barnabus; the early church debated over a few books, whether some should be in the bible  and others out. The few that some thought should be in were the epistleBarnabus, Shepherd of Hermes [vision, dream type thing] and the Didache. Those that made it and were debated were letters like 2nd Peter, Jude, Hebrews and Revelation. As a believer I do accept what the church finally settled on, but it’s good to be aware of the other writings that never made it. Now, the Dan Brown books go way overboard in the idea that the Gnostic writings were also included in this debate- that’s not true. The early church unanimously rejected those works. But for today let me share a few things that I felt the Lord speak to me thru the letter of Barnabus. The letter quotes freely from the old testament- in chapter 12 I read ‘there are 2 nations in thy womb, and 2 people shall come from thee- the greater shall serve the lesser’ and ‘the Lord hath not deprived me of seeing thy face; bring me thy sons that I may bless them’. This last month or so has unexpectedly brought in a lot of old friends from New Jersey; they are now ‘sitting at the table’ so to speak. These friends are from an original group that I have prayed for, for 30 years! Though I have spent many years working with another ‘nation’ [Texas] yet these friends were there from the beginning, people I always wanted to be able to speak to, share with them things about the kingdom and stuff like that. I also had a few dream experiences where some of the ‘Texas crowd’ [lesser nation- in the sense that all of the guys I have worked with over the years are not in the same ‘upper class’ as many of my old friends] appeared to me, friends who have died- and I felt like I needed to post their stories on the blog/facebook site. What I did not realize was happening was in a sense God was using the ‘lesser nation’ as a witness to the greater one. God finally allowed me to re-connect with many old friends and thru the testimonies of my Texas friends the ‘greater has served the lesser’.

 

[1527] I have this habit of writing [the little paintbrush type deal] bible verses all over the yard; on the fence, gazebo, the back of the house, everywhere. Now to be honest my yard does look good, I have it looking like a mini park- paths and all- people have complemented me on it over the years; but yes, the bible verse thing- well my wife and kids tell me it’s tacky. Hey, I don’t care- the house is paid for- I’m gonna do what the ‘heck’ I want. After all, who do I need to impress, a bunch of homeless friends? So one day I had one of my homeless buddies over, we usually hang out in the yard, he’s a believer and does like the verses and all- but he tells me ‘you know brother, if you used some stencils it would look a little better’ [I paint freestyle!] Geez, maybe the wife was right.

 

[1529] Still doing some reading from the Epistle of Barnabus; let me share a few thoughts from chapter 13. The writer [who by the way was probably not Barnabus!] speaks of the people of God as this corporate community that transcends space and time- we are a living temple of people, Gods completed work. He speaks about the 7 days of creation- God worked for 6 days and on the 7th day he rested, that as Gods finished work [the church] we also are in this ‘resting place’ [Sabbath] with God. In this community God uses prophetic voices to speak, these are the ‘gates’ of the temple- but the people are not enamored with the messenger- they are simply hearing God thru him. All these concepts of course are rooted in scripture; Ephesians says we are being ‘built together’ as an habitation of God thru the Spirit. Hebrews 12 [message version] speaks about the church as this invisible city that has this innumerable company of angels-  and citizens who have already passed over to heaven, but they are still participating from the stands- cheering us on as we run our part of the relay race. I just want to encourage all my readers today- I have some old buddies from Jersey- some ‘ex-con’ friends from Texas, and friends all over the world who make up this spiritual community that gathers weekly around the table [radio, blog, etc.]. Listen for the voice of God, try and overlook the image of men- often times we say things and God is using what we say in a way that we don’t fully comprehend; that’s good- because the person being ‘talked to’ sees it as a confirmation from God, not men. The epistle of Barnabus says God uses 3 things to build this heavenly city; the word of faith, the promises he has made, and wisdom. He himself speaks within this community; he says things that nobody ever expected- not even those doing the talking! This community is an everlasting temple, a body of people that God resides in for ever- we are the people of God.

 

-[1530] Let me just give a short intro to these end times posts [on facebook]; the reason I think these posts are important right now [10-2010] is because our country is going thru a political conversation that ‘behind the scenes’ these end times views are effecting the most prominent voices. Last week Glen Beck played a bunch of clips that showed Obama saying ‘my individual salvation is tied to your corporate salvation’ now, Beck is a sincere man who comes from a fundamentalist background- the problem is most branches of Christianity- Obama’s [liberal] and conservative view Becks religion as problematic, beck is a Mormon [I love and respect Mormons!] but theologically- they have some serious flaws. But when Beck criticizes Obama for his statement- in reality this type of statement [corporate salvation] has very strong biblical and historical roots! I remember during the campaign, Obama was asked who his favorite philosopher was [Bush said Jesus!] Obama said ReinholdNeighbor [spelling?]. I thought that was interesting- he is a very influential theologian, somewhat on the liberal side of the argument- but the fact that he picked him showed me that Obama’s Christianity is real- though liberal. Now, you have Palin, Beck and others who hold to a fundamentalist/dispensationalist perspective- they have an end time view of the world that is closely tied in with the popular ‘left behind’ series of books from fundamentalist preacher Tim Lahaye- a view I don’t hold to. So that’s why some of the presidents critics really view him as some type of secret Manchurian candidate that wants to overthrow our country and institute socialism- this paranoid belief system permeates their religious view. So anyway keep this in mind as you read this next post- that’s the background.

 

[1531] LENNY BRUCE-  Last night I caught the movie ‘Lenny’, it’s the true story of the shock comic Lenny Bruce. Rose to fame in the 50’s for his vulgar comedy and social commentary. His story is much more than some George Carlin rebel comic- in a real sense he tapped into his Jewish Messianic roots and was fulfilling aprophetic type role; he spoke on issues that were hot [war] and he had an audience who were ready to hear. He would go thru lots of legal and personal problems- he would get hooked on heroin and die. The other day I mentioned Obama’s strain of Christianity- Liberal [reverend Wrights church is what you would call a social justice congregation]. In the late 19th, early 20th century liberation theology was in her hey-day. Men like Walter Rauschenbauch [spelling?] introduced a form of Christianity that was less focused on personal conversion- but tried to expand the churches thinking on social issues. The fundamentalistmovement of the 20th century pushed back and labeled the liberals as heretics. Now, theologically speaking many were- some rejected the resurrection of Christ and the vitaldoctrine of reconciliation thru the Cross of Christ. But they were mostly right on the need for the church to engage in social justice issues, to deal with things like world hunger/poverty. To speak out against oppressive regimes [which the Catholic Church was doing all along]. The church should play a role in these areas- things that Bruce was talking about at the time. The last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, prophesies of John the Baptist future coming- it says ‘God will raise up one like Elijah’ John would come 400 years later and challenge the corruption that he saw. He was this radical loner who seemed to be unhinged at times- I mean who tells the king ‘your sleeping with your brother’s wife- your in sin’. He told it the way he saw it, and it would eventually lead to his death. There is a verse that speaks of John, it says ‘the law and the prophets were until John, but now the kingdom of God is preached and everyone  is pushing their way to hear what he has to say’. John changed the atmosphere of his day, he was a kind of Lenny Bruce- he began speaking openly about issues that no one else would touch, sure- the regular ‘church folk’ had their preachers [rabbis, synagogue] but John was different- he wasn’t out to make a name for himself [though that would happen] nor was he trying to make a living [or get rich!] from ‘my ministry’. No he was a different breed, he could spot hypocrisy a mile away- but when he saw Jesus, he knew he was seeing the real thing ‘I am not worthy to tie your shoes’ he would say. Jesus himself would have his run in’s with the religious crowd- showed up at the temple and told them ‘what are you doing, merchandizing in Gods house!’ he made a whip and beat them, he turned over their tables and thru them out. Yes, Jesus made John proud. I think we as God’s people need to be willing to speak out about the social justice issues of our day- not enough voices are speaking out against things that need to be dealt with. A heroin addicted shock comic would be used to speak out against things that he saw were wrong, sure- he was definitely an imperfect vessel, but people never heard it like that before.

 

[1532] AMERICAN SPLENDOR- The other day I re-watched one of my favorite movies- American Splendor. I don’t know why I like the movie, it’s quite depressing! But it’s an independent flick that came out a few years back, and I am a fan of independent movies. Plus, the main character also has an independent streak. The movie tells the true story of Harvey Pekar- a down on your luck type of guy, always grumbling about something [sound familiar?] and he’s stuck in this dead end job, has been thru a couple of bad marriages and is always down on his luck. One day he meets a buddy who becomes famous in the world of underground comic books, the guy eventually helps Harvey launch his own comic book [American Splendor] and Harvey becomes somewhat famous- he still works his mundane job as a file clerk for some medical business; but he also becomes famous thru the comic. The comic book is simply this down on your look guy telling the true stories of his other friends, and the stuff they are all experiencing as real people- I realized as I was watching it the last time around- that, that’s why I like the movie, I identify with Harvey! A funny line is when Harvey gets a letter from some girl; she’s a fan [future wife] and she writes him for a copy of the latest issue; Harvey is this desperate type character, says he marries whoever will take him, and as he’s living this lonely experience he gets the letter- as he reads it he says ‘man, she’s got good looking hand writing’! Not that’s desperate! Life consists of many ‘real life’ experiences that often hit hard- people don’t need to see Christians as these ‘super duper’ jet set go getters- they need to ‘read’ the real life experiences of us and our friends, they need to see that we all go thru things in life- and yet we still believe. How many Harvey’s are reading this right now? One bit of advice- live each day as it happens, experience life as a real person- with other real people, and every now and then share your story with other people- be real- don’t hide all the faults, people need to see the good along with the bad- they don’t need some plastic image that no one is able to relate to- and most of all- don’t get married because she has good looking hand writing! J

 

[1533] SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT- The other day I caught a documentary on Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain. They arose out of the Seattle grunge scene [music] and Kurt’s group, Nirvana, became one of the most popular groups of the day. Kurt would eventually stick a shotgun in his mouth and pull the trigger. Courtney’s all female group [Hole- ouch!]survives till this day and she has been successful in lots of ways. The documentary covered the theory that Courtney had Kurt killed; they interviewed friends and stuff- one of Kurt’s best friends, who rejects the theory- Kurt was always suicidal- said how one time Kurt was on the phone, trying to ‘score’ some Heroin- and he says ‘hey, don’t tell Courtney’ and at the same time Courtney calls on the other line to get some stuff- she says ‘don’t tell Kurt’. Sad. Many years ago when I first started doing bible studies at the jails I became friends with a lot of Heroin addicts, these guys were around 20 years older than me- but they were caught in the cycle and in their mid 40’s things were catching up. Eventually these guys made up the core group of the church I would start. Their wives and kids made up the church. Eventually I would become good friends with their sons, who were closer to my age; these guys were all on Cocaine. So it seemed strange that Kurt was hooked on heroin- in these parts that’s the drug of the older generation [my sister has been a Heroin addict for as long as I can remember]. I was reading 2nd Timothy chapter 4 the other day- Paul tells Timothy ‘when things get rough, ride it out like the rest of us! Taking it on the chin like Jesus’ [Message version]. The King James says ‘endurehardness as a good soldier for Christ’. Timothy was a protégée’ of Paul, like Titus- Paul wrote 3 letters to these spiritual sons [1st, 2nd Timothy- Titus] they are contained in the New Testament. We read about Timothy’s relationship to Paul in the book of Acts, Paul had a little controversy over how he was preaching to the Gentiles [a technical argument over whether or not to circumcise Gentile converts] and Timothy came from a diverse family, father was a Greek, Mother was Jewish- so for some technical reasons Paul winds up having Timothy circumcised [long story- read it in Acts]. Anyway when Paul writes his letters to Timothy he commends him on the faith that was passed down to him by his mother and grandmother [Eunice, Lois] but he makes no mention of Timothy’s father- it seems as if Timothy might have grown up without a father figure? So that’s why Paul steps in and encourages his young friend‘ be strong son, there are going to be some very hard times- yourgonna need to take it like a man [as Sharon Angle told harry Reid in the debate the other night- MAN UP HARRY!]. Paul knew this race was tough, and he knew young Timothy had some tough days ahead- he was prepping him for the journey. As I watched the documentary on Cobain, at one point they played a phone message that Kurt left on the answering machine of some author who was writing a critical book on Courtney. Kurt called her [because of Courtney’s prodding] and threatened her not to write too critical of a book on Courtney- Kurt says ‘look, I’m already at the end of the road, so believe me- don’t write the damn book!’ As gifted as Kurt was, his demons would eventually catch up with him. Paul also said to Timothy ‘this is the reason I’m sticking it out in this place, so all the other people that still need to get in on it will have a chance’. God has called us to help ‘other people get in on it’ part of the process is being able to ride out the storm [Morrison].

 

[1534] CATHOLIC/PROTESTANT POSITIONS ON THE BIBLE. Let’s do a little teaching today. To all my Catholic/Protestant readers- when I teach on our respective faiths- understand that for the most part I’m giving you the official position of our churches. Now ‘official’ is a lot harder to say among Protestants- but the ‘best’ statements on Protestant doctrine probably come from the Reformed positions as stated by the creeds and statements of faith that came out of the 16th century Reformation- and yes, there other good statements as well [Baptist confessions, etc.]. When I talk ‘Catholic position’ I’m giving you the official position as stated thru the Catechism of the church- as well as the Encyclicals and decisions that have come from the councils. The Catholic Church does actually have official positions on stuff! [They call this the Magisterium- the church’s official teaching office]. It should be noted that both Catholic and Protestant churches have ‘dissenters’ within their ranks- Priests, Preachers, Scholars- who break ranks with the actual teaching of their own churches [Hans Kung- Catholic. Rudolph Bultman- Protestant. Just to name a few]. In some situations where the clergy are ‘less educated’[I’ll be nice] sometimes they don’t know what the position of their church really is. So that makes stuff a little harder. Okay- what do Catholics and Protestantsbelieve about the bible? Both groups believe the bible is the inspired word of God, infallible- with no errors. Both groups also have notable teachers within their ranks who dispute this- but remember- for the most part this is the official position. The Catholic church’s most ‘meaty’ statement on faith and doctrine still dates back to the 16th century Council that took place in Trent. Though there have been other important councils [Vatican 1 and 2] yet the council of Trent is the most definitive. That council was for the most part a clear restating of the historic position of the church, especially reaffirming the 7 sacraments. The council also produced a document on the church’s position on the bible- the church used stronger wording than most Protestants, they said the bible came to us by the ‘Holy Spirit DICATING’ the words! In fairness, the CatholicChurch does not hold to a mechanical type dictation- that God actually said the words to the writers, but never the less, that’s the statement. The Protestants are known for the famous 3 ‘Sola’s’ of the Reformation [Sola= alone] Faith alone, Grace alone, Bible alone- basically ‘alone’ meant the bible was the final authority on the matter- though creeds and councils were helpful, yet they can ‘err’. The able Catholic scholar, John Eck [maybe Cajetan?] forced Luther to admit that the Pope and Councils could make mistakes, and this was a fatal blow to any agreement between the warring sides. Now, many Protestants also seem to be confused on the statement ‘the bible alone’. The Reformers did not mean that we were to cast off all the good things that came down to us from the church fathers- Calvin quotes Saint Augustine a lot in his writings- the Reformers just meant that when deciding on final matters, the bible has the last say. The Catholics held that both Tradition [oral tradition passed down thru the church] as well as scripture had a say. The main point today is both Catholics and Protestants agree that the bible is ‘the word of God’. Catholics have a few more books in their bibles, but we all agree that it is God’s word. [Just a side note- The Catholics say the bible is ‘an infallible collection of infallible books’. The Protestants would not accept this statement- they said ‘we have a fallible collection of infallible books’. Most Protestants are not aware of this. The main reason the Protestant side would not agree to ‘infallible collection’ is because that would side with the position that the church did indeed possess infallible authority, given by God, to make certaindecisions that were binding- obviously the Reformers would not go that far.]

 

[1535] I AM THE TRADITION!- Just started reading the Pope’s book ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ it came out in 2006, but never had a chance to read it. I recommend all our Pastor/Preacher friends to read it- especially those of you who are familiar with the Historical Critical method of scholarship, and those involved in the Propheticmovement. Benedict critiques the historical method very well; he’s even funny at times! [In a scholarly way]. Just the preface and intro give enough meat that if you’re not a ‘full book’ reader, these would be enough! The critique for the modern propheticmovement is that Benedict shows the real purpose of Prophets, as pictured thru Moses- he does a superb job at explaining how Jesus fulfilled the ‘prophet like Moses’ prophecy spoken by Peter in the book of Acts- excellent insights! Okay- let me cover a little more Catholic history- at the risk of losing my Protestant readers- but hoping to gain some Catholic ones. Being I’m talking about Popes and all, let me cover some 19th century history. In France you had the French Revolution [right at the end of the 18th century] and the feeling at the time was to throw off all outside control- many of the nation states rejected the Roman church for that simple reason, it was Roman! That is the states were flexing their new felt independence and the spirit of enlightenment and reformation that was running thru the land. In France you had 2 groups who were at opposite sides; The Gaulincansist’s versus the Ultramontanists. The first group represented the feeling of ‘lets break from the Roman church and be free’ the latter group wanted to maintain ties with Rome- the term meant ‘beyond the mountains/alps’. Meaning from Frances geographic perspective, they wanted to keep looking towards Rome. It was in this environment that the Catholic Church would convene the first Vatican Council [called Vatican 1]. Pope Pius the 9th started his pontificate as a liberal type Pope- open to new ideas and all, but as time progressed he took a more conservative stance. The council- starting in 1870- would take a very hard line stance against all the new ‘ism’s’ that arose over the last few centuries. Communism, Democratic spirit, Protestantism- the church took a hard line and seemed to come off as arrogant and unwilling to change with the times. The council would affirm for the first time the doctrine of Papal infallibility and the Immaculateconception of Mary- 2 doctrines that would make it much more difficult to bridge the Protestant/Catholic gap. It’s important to note that the church had a tradition of Papal infallibility for years- but it did not become officialCatholic doctrine until Vatican 1. All Catholics at the council did not agree to the doctrine- a famous Priest by the name of Guidi would dissent and challenge the Pope, he asked ‘what about the tradition’? Meaning what about the authority of tradition that has come from a spirit of collegiality and cooperation among the Bishops- if you push a strong doctrine of Papal infallibility- the tradition will loseits power. Pius famously responded ‘I AM THE TRADITION’. The council would never officially close- Victor Emmanuel would sack Rome- TheVaticanwould lose most of the Papal states and there would arise a sympathetic attitude towards the Roman church! Many felt bad that she lost her standing in the world, this caused many Catholic states to rise up in Support of the Vatican, and she actually gained more good will than before! I would also note that when the council broke up, the leading Catholic scholar of the day- Durlinger- did not accept the doctrine of Papal infallibility. Others broke away with him and theseCatholicssurvive till this day-primarily in Western Europe [Holland, Switzerland, etc.] they are called The Old Catholic Church and are Catholic in every way except for the doctrine of the Papacy. Some view Pope Pius as a stubborn man who was not willing to change with the times, but if you look at the overall political reality of the day- you can see why he took such a tough stance, the church was feeling threatened from the outside by many new movements and she felt that Christianity was under attack- Pius felt it necessary to exert Papal authority, so he did. Vatican 2 [1962-65] would ‘un-do’ the harsh spirit of Vatican 1 and be seen at a much more open and ‘liberal’ council- Pope John the 23rd [Pope during the council] would shape the mood of the council with the saying ‘let the windows be open’ implying a new freshness and openness for the church. Vatican 2 would refer to the Protestants as ‘separatedbrothers’ Vatican 1- heretics. Okay lets end for now, I encourage all of our readers to try and know the various Christian positions- don’t just allow rumor or gossip to form your opinions of others- strive for an honest conversation with other Christian groups- give others the benefit of the doubt- and if you still have sincere differences of belief, at least they’ll be informed differences- not simply hearsay.

 

[1536] THE HAIR TONIC DRINKERS! Okay, it’s time to tell the story. Recently I have had a few old friends join my Facebook page. One of them I met doing the rounds with the homeless guys in Corpus- he’s now doing well and has a place in Kingsville. My other buddy [David] has been a great friend for 25 years now. I met Dave [and all his brothers and sisters] thru my friendship with Dave’s dad- a drug addict for many years who died a while back. I used to preach to Dave’s dad at the county jail in Kingsville. Eventually when the guys got out of jail [or prison] they would join my little house church and their wives and kids made up the church. Most of the sons were around my age at the time and we became good friends. When I went thru my ‘backsliding phase’ well yes- I partied hard, snorted some Cocaine with the bro’s- got high- the whole routine. Yet these guys are still good friends today [absent the drugs!]. So I was like the only White boy in the whole group, most [all?] of the ‘church members’ were Mexican. So you know- yourgonna kid each other ‘White boy’ ‘Wet Back’ in fun. Many of my friends have done lots of prison time- one buddy was real proud of being in the ‘Mexican Mafia’ [or Texas Syndicate?] while in prison- these are the gangs that ‘run the show’ in Texas jails. So the White brothers really don’t have the ‘power’ in the Texas gang scene. So I would kid Dave ‘hey bro, you know you Mexicans can’t handle the white boys’ [yes, I had some bad fights with some of the guys at times- when ‘backsliding’]. So one day Dave tells me the story of these 2 White boys- the Tonic drinkers. In prison you can get drugs and stuff- but if you didn’t have the money- you could catch a buzz by drinking Mouth Wash. So these White brothers figured ‘what the heck, lets down this bottle of hair tonic’ yes, they almost killed themselves! So whenever I would bring up the Mexicans not being able to handle the White boys, Dave would reply ‘What! You mean you tonic drinking @$#%’. I can’t believe I posted this to my Blog!

 

[1537] OH SHUT THE HELL UP! – Okay- the elections are over [11-2010] and I have not written a post yet for the blog [I wrote a short thing on Facebook- but nothing for the blog]. So I figured I’d better do one for the whole group. As I was ‘examining my heart’ to see if I have allowed politics to interfere with ‘my peace’- I had a quick impression in my mind-a picture [you know- the light bulb thing] and I saw myself over the last month watching the news channels and every now and then Andy Griffith would come on the commercial and he’d be promoting Obama care- he would be telling the seniors how wonderful the plan is for them [how you take billions from it [medicare]- and it still be good is beyond me?] So anyway- as ‘Andy’ starts promoting the plan [day after day] I found myself, yes- just like one of Pavlov’s dogs- responding ‘OH SHUT THE HELL UP ANDY’ as I reach for the remote to change the channel. As Jeff Foxworthy would say ‘you know you got a problem if…’ So yes- I need to repent! Okay- now that the Republicans took the house, and the Dem’s held the senate- how should Christians [and humans in general!] respond? First, if people have serious political differences with the president- that’s fine. To voice those concerns [in a right way- without ascribing wrong motives to the man] is a good thing. But when the pundits and even the ‘preachers’ begin buying into the paranoid notion that the president is secretly carrying out this lifelong plan to purposely undermine the economy- so he can carry out this childhood ‘Kenyan’ [secretly born there- didn’t you hear!] plan to overthrow the U.S. then at that point we have left all serious minded politics [and Christianity!]. It is fine to disagree with Bush, Obama- etc.  It is not fine to demonize people- to see hidden motives behind every tree! I personally think the health care reform was a mistake- why? Listen- I’m for national health care- yes, call me a liberal. Yet the plan we got mandates private citizens to buy private insurance, by law! Whenever you pass a law that says ‘you must by this product’ and yet you don’t restrain the seller of the product in any way- that is you put no controls on the price of the product- then in the end that’s not a good thing! But I see why the thing ended up like that, and it wasn’t all the presidents fault- both sides are to blame for it [you say how can the Repub’s be responsible- well when some in the party simply want Obama to fail- that is they won’t seriously work with the man- then yes, it forced his hand to pass something that even many liberals hate!]. So, over these next few years the correct response from the church should be- when the president does things we feel are wrong, yes- voice your concerns. When he does something you feel is good- praise the man, give him credit! I’m worried that the man might be having a hard time dealing with all the hatred that is regularly directed at him and his family- sometimes you can see it on his face! He’s still fairly young, yes inexperienced [first term senator] we never had someone with such little experience before- yes he’s very smart- but never a one term senator [most held office for many years- governorships, etc.]. So we need to pray for our president and his family [I do every week- by name- specifically] and when we engage in the political arena- understand that there are sincere Christians on both sides of the aisle! You might disagree with people like Michael Moore- yet the man regularly attends Mass and believes in God- we can’t just demonize these people- it’s not right. Oh, and if you have been cursing out Andy Griffith over the last month or so- well yes ‘you might be a …’.

 

[1538] MORE ON THE POPE’S BOOK- Let me cover a little more Catholic history, being I’m still reading the Pope’s book [Jesus of Nazareth]. The last 2 chapters I read dealt with the temptations of Jesus by the devil- and the concept of the ‘Kingdom of God’. I like Benedict’s interpretation of the temptations- how he applies them to today. He sees the temptation of turning stones into bread as saying ‘God- if you’re really there- then why are there so many starving people in the world- why don’t you provide! Just ‘turn the stones into bread’’ if you will. The Pope develops this thought as a general cause of doubt that occurs in the world; how many people seem to question the existence of God because of the many injustices we see in the world [in theology we call this Theodicy- the Pope I’m sure knows the term- but he’s trying to write for the common reader so he doesn’t use the term]. All in all I liked the argument. He also [surprisingly!] equates the temptation of the devil to Jesus- when the devil says ‘fall down and worship me and I will give you the kingdoms of the world’. Interestingly the Pope applies this to the ongoing temptation that the church has always had to deal with- the temptation of the church ‘bowing down’ in order to exert control over the kingdoms of the world. He compares the church’s ‘marriage’ to Roman govt. [4ht century Constantine] as a weakness of the church- that she in essence opted for outward political control and in a way rejected the kingdom of Jesus- the meek kingdom that would inherit the earth. Now, this observation has been made many times before- but mostly from Protestants! It’s surprising to see a Pope make the same observation! Also liberal Catholic theologian Hans Kung has made this argument- he’s not a theologian in good standing with his own church- a few years ago he openly made the argument that the church should reject Papal infallibility [the doctrine] and got an official censure from the Vatican. So any way I found the observations of Benedict enlightening and surprising- over the next few weeks I’ll probably hit a few more notes from the book [probably should have done a complete book review now that I think about it- but I’m in the middle of making some new radio programs and didn’t want to focus too much on a book review]. Anyway- if you get a chance pick up the book [published in 2006- but any Catholic bookshop will have it] it’s a worthwhile read.

 

[1539] Was just reading a debate on the doctrine of Transubstantiation [the actual Body and Blood of Christ present in the Eucharist- I have studied the development of the doctrine thru the centuries, eventually Thomas Aquinas would come up with the final wording- very technical indeed- he tried to harmonize ‘Aristotelian thought’ and sortof did his best- it gets a little too deep for the present post!] What I was thinking about, wasJesus sitting at the last meal with his friends- he knows he will be leaving them soon- yet they don’t fully comprehend the mission he needs to accomplish- there lost in a way. He sits down with them and takes the bread and wine and tells them ‘SEE-LOOK- this is ME! I HAVE TO BREAK. This is the plan- all along my Father planned it like this’ and he says ‘look- I’m going to break for you- I will soon be broken on the Cross- and the result will be life for you and many others- all who will eventually hear the story’. So he breaks the bread, he pours the wine- and he knows what’s coming next. The prophet Isaiah said ‘God will see the TRAVAIL of his soul, and be satisfied’. He struggles with the reality of the whole thing- he sweats blood in the garden- he says ‘God, if there’s another way to make this thing happen- let’s do it’! Heresigns himself to the reality that he always knew awaited him. I just thought it strange to have read the debate over the Eucharist- while we don’t really see the broken man. This was all done for us- he had to ‘break’.

 

[1540] Jesus of Nazareth [pope’s book] chapters 3-4.  Okay- I’m having a hard time ‘dummying down’ the Pope’s book- trying to explain it in simple terms- so those of you who don’t get into it- just skip these posts and read another part of my blog. Okay, Benedict covers three different ways of looking at the central message of Jesus –The Kingdom of God. He borrows heavily from the church father Origen [form the Alexandrian school- Origen is very influential on early Christian thought- he also was a Universalist- in the end everyone gets saved- even Satan!]. The Pope shows how Origen viewed the kingdom as the person of Jesus himself- that is when you see Christ- you’re seeing the kingdom. Origen also spoke of the ‘interior kingdom’ a spiritual reality of the kingdom ruling over people’s hearts. Then the Pope speaks about the 19th– 20th century emphasis as the Church as the Kingdom- he shows how the church began seeing the kingdom as present in the world thru her- that is the church herself is a divine presence of God in the earth- and the kingdom is here right now thru the church. I agree with all 3 of the above views of the kingdom- I would only disagree a little with the Popes perspective that the 3rd view is primarily a late development [probably just reads that way because the book is an English translation form the German- I can’t imagine a Pope as learned as Benedict [one of the most intellectual ones in many years!] would miss this]. Right from the early days of Saint Augustine [City of God- 4th century] the idea of the kingdom being present thru the church has been around. The Pope also gets into those who saw the kingdom message of Jesus- and teach that Jesus true Kingdom message was never grasped- and instead we messed up and started ‘the church’. Liberal thinkers like Albert Schweitzer and Adolph Von Harnackall played a role in this type of thinking, and early 20th century ideas about re-thinking the kingdom in general- as well as the philosopher Heidegger. In chapter 4 Benedict does an excellent job atportrayingJesus as the ‘new Moses’ who delivers the New Law thru the sermon on the mount- contrasting Moses receiving of the law at Mount Sinai. Jesus goes up on a mountain and ‘sits’ [showing the plenary authority of the teacher- being seated]. In the New Testament [Hebrews and the gospels] the religious leaders are said to ‘sit in Moses seat’- or Hebrews says ‘Jesus sat down at Gods right hand’. In Catholic theology the ‘seat’ [chair- cathedra] denotes the place of authority. I live in a ‘cathedral city’- Corpus Christi. New York’s SaintPatrick’s church is the cathedral for that area. That means the authority over the regional diocese is ‘seated’ at the cathedral- where the regional Bishop resides. So Benedict does a good job showing us Jesus as the ‘new Moses’ who sits on the new mount and takes the plenary authority- he also says that Jesus authority did not rest in the religious institutions of the day- like the priests and Pharisees- that Jesus authority was real. The religious leaders was too- but they were not sincere. Once again I find these types of observationsconsistent with my own thought [and Protestants thought in general] and I find it very surprising to see the Pope thinking along the same lines.

 

[1541] SOCIAL JUSTICE- These last few months there has been lots of talk in the media about the role of the church- are all ‘liberal’ churches communist? Are the Sarah Palin’s of the world the future representatives of conservatives? I have been downloading songs form UTUBE these past few weeks- I stumbledacrossNickleback, and found Daughtry also, there style is my favorite. As I viewed the videos I saw a bunch of stuff on the starving kids of the world- one of the greatest ‘injustices’ on the planet. Why? Do we in the West have any responsibility? What about our role in the global ‘village’? When countries compete for our customers- countries that have no child welfare laws [or if they have them they don’t enforce them]. When we buy their goods- are we responsible in a way for the abuse the kids [and adults] go thru? What response has the church had? For the most part we pump ‘Christian TV’ into their countries- and they hear a message equal to that of the real estate info-mercials that come on between midnight and 6 a.m.! In a great way we have become irrelevant- we have believed that Capitalism in itself is just! We think the market itself will answer these questions. Yet we have bibles that actually contain teaching on ‘unjust capital’ [the hire of the workers is fraudulently held back by the employers- James] Stories in the Old Testament where God told his people ‘when you harvest your fields- make sure you leave some ‘free food’ in the corners- so the poor- the ALIENS can have something too’! Our problem is we only see the things we want to see. The apostle John says ‘how can we say we love God- who we can’t see- when we don’t love our brother- who we do see’. You tell me.

 

[1542] RISK- Okay- a little drained right now- I watched news from midnight till 5 am. The guys at the fire station used to kid me- they saw some 20-20 type program- it dealt with people who were actually news addicts, the running joke was some day they would find me at the substation dead- when they pulled my eyelids back they would read ‘Fox News’ [I watch them all- not just fox]. So I caught all the re-runs of the day- a few I watched twice! But I also caught a very informative CSPAN show- they were covering some geopolitical seminar out of the University of Chicago. The level of discussion was about a thousand times more mature than all the talking cable heads. They had on both Democrats and Republicans- past U.N. ambassadors and all. But the conversation was great. A while back I took an open stand against the wars [not our men and women] simply because I felt we needed to put more public pressure on the promise that the President made, that he would get us out. Realistically- yes we can’t leave ‘today’ but I fear another 10 years of the thing! In the discussion excellent points were made- some conservatives even said how many of our global enemies are glad we are in Iraq and Afghanistan- they see those struggles as us spreading ourselves too thin- sort of like when the worlds super power engages in ‘nation building’ then other nations can get away with more- because ‘the cop’ is distracted. So in a way we are playing into the hands of our enemies- but the political environment of our country does not leave room for an open discussion like this- I mean you can’t run a campaign on a serious thought out question like this- you would get branded as being weak on defense-or ‘un patriotic’ it’s sad. Last week the president of Afghanistan- Hamid Karzai- was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying we need to stop doing night time raids in their country. Ever since General Petraeus took over [after Stanley Mcrystal was pushed out for spilling his guts to a Rolling Stone reporter] he has re tooled the efforts, and one of the main changes was doing night time raids and routing the Taliban- he’s been highly successful. Yet many civilians have died. But I feel there is another possible reason why Karzai made the statement- he has been sitting at the table with the Taliban for months, they are talking and discussing future plans on settling the war. Plus Iran is also funding Karzai, and having friendly talks as well. So in a way they are using our guys as pawns- they realize our guys will kill so many of their guys, and they will bomb us every so often- but all of a sudden, in the middle of this chess game- comes the U.S. troops knocking off a bunch of Taliban men- hey- they’ve been buddying up with Karzai for months- it’s quite possible that the Taliban have told Karzai [over dinner!] ‘Damn it- cant you get these night time raids to stop’! Whatever the facts are- in a way our men are being used in this political agenda. Sure, we have our own agenda- and their lives are not ‘being wasted’ yet it’s sad to see the president of the country we’re ‘fighting for’ actually buddying up to the force that’s killing our men. But- all this is too much for a political sound bite- so your either branded as ‘for our troops’ or ‘against them’ and many of our enemiescouldn’t be happier about it! Okay- time to confess- years ago at the fire house we got into a stage where we started playing the board game- Risk. It’s a fun strategic game- of course no one took it too seriously [I actually threw the whole game in the dumpster one night- hey- war is hell! LOL.] So one day me and a buddy get into a 2 man contest- and I figured I’d up the ante [you know- living on the edge] so I tell him ‘ How bout we play 10 bucks a game- and the loser always has the option of challenging the winner to another game- double or nothing’ so we shake on it. After about 5 hours- and one trip to my ATM [yes- this is sad] I win game number 4 or 5 and the pot is around 100 bucks. So I’m hoping my buddy had enough [he had his wife bring him money too!] and as I look into his eyes, trying to read the Poker face- instead of ‘Poker’ I see tears [yes- now the story gets really sad] ‘I say- bro- either pay up or challenge for the next round’ and he begins whining about me forcing him to play the last game- and  he’s gonna tell the Captain I made him play the last game! So as you can see the night didn’t go too well. One of the strategies when playing with multiple people is if you can get your enemy to start a war with another player- you just sit back and watch him waste all his resources and money- and you even try and get other players to fight among themselves ‘Hey Joe- you gonna let Sean get away with that!’. As I watched the CSPAN program- the smartest minds said we have played into this game on more than one occasion. That’s what I mean when I say I’m ‘against the wars’ the whole nation building agenda- our guys getting caught up in the middle of the board game- at times, being manipulated by the political agenda of either party- that’s what makes it sad. Well, I need to go- just remembered something- need to go collect on an old debt.

 

[1543] HAPPY THANSGIVING! ‘In Jesus Christ, God has revealed himself in descending- we ascend to God by accompanying him on this descending path- as we witness the abuse of economic power, as we witness the cruelties of capitalism that degrades man to the level of merchandise, we have also realized the perils of wealth- the man destroying divinity- Mammon- which grips large parts of the world in a cruel stranglehold.’ Pope Benedict.

‘What has been the greatest sin on earth so far? Surely the words of the man who said ‘Woe to those who laugh now’”Friedrich Nietzsche.

In Matthews gospel we read that Jesus came from ‘Galilee, of the Gentiles’- strange. Matthew was writing for a Jewish audience, Luke’s gospel was targeting the Gentiles. Yet Matthew describes Jesus home turf in terms that would offend his target audience- the Jews of Jesus day honored Jerusalem, Judea- but Galilee? Right from the startJesusentered the scene in a way and style that offended the religious mind of his day. The prophet Isaiah says Jesus was this Rod- this branch that would grow from the ‘root’ of Jesse. Jesus came from the lineage of Jesse, King David’s forefather- royal blood indeed. Yet the prophet says he will be set up as a sign- an ‘ensign’ that the people will look to- they will see things they never saw before. In the gospels we see Jesus as a highly unusual preacher/teacher- he simply does not fit the mold. Isaiah also says he will judge the poor of the earth with equity- he will defend them in anger! The prophets tell us ‘The zeal of thine house has eaten me up’. This prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus entered the temple courts and saw the merchandisers selling their stuff- he had it- in a rage he grabbed the tables and turned them upside down ‘My father’s house was supposed to be a place of prayer- look what you have done to it! You’ve made it a Den of Thieves’. Yes, anger was a part of his persona- at times it would eat him up- in a sense. Yet as he flustered the religious aristocracy- he was a breath of fresh air to the out casts, to those who society drew the ‘black line’ on. Dylan’s son would sing ‘the same black line that was drawn on you was drawn on me’ surely Jesus would ‘allow’ the black line to be drawn on him too. The common people heard him gladly. Again- Isaiah says ‘blessed are the women who are barren, who have not been able to have kids- for more are the children of the desolate than of the married wife’. In the Old Testament [and Jesus day] not being able to have kids was seen as a mark ‘the black line’ if you will. The poor wife would be stigmatized, looked at as someone who didn’t have what it took to fulfill her ‘womanhood’. Again, in a sense an outcast. Yet Jesus said ‘blessed are those who mourn now, who cry- who are empty’ for theirs is the kingdom. In the above quote, that’s what Nietzsche was decrying- he saw the words of the Master as contrary to mans inner greatness- his humanistic abilities to achieve- to fulfill all of his desires- to live for the full! Much like the gospel of our day. Yet Jesus emptied himself, he was ‘a man of sorrow- constant grief’ [Isaiah]. The apostle Paul tells us that Jesus emptied himself, he did not see his divinity as something to be used for self gain- some type of quest to reach this stage of religious Nirvana- no he emptied himself- he too became ‘barren’. Yes Jesus was quite a character, he simply was not what the people expected- he seemed to break the rules. Yet at the end of the day- this unorthodox preacher- this man from Galilee- yes he would change the world.

 

[1544] POPPA PAUL- It’s the Saturday right after Thanksgiving; around 3 a.m. in the morning. Been up for a few hours, actually praying [believe it or not!] ‘Wow, brother- you must be spiritual?’ Please. A few years ago, while still working at the fire dept., I spent the last few years staying up most of the night, walking outside- praying. Some days I’d fall asleep around 9- get up at 11- to be honest it was killing me! I just couldn’t sleep- it took me a few years to train myself to sleep in till at least 3- maybe on a good day- 4 a.m. Then a week or so ago the clocks went back an hour- and yes- I’m waking up at one again. So here we are. As I was praying I was thinking of an old buddy, Poppa Paul- don’t remember if I ever wrote about ‘Pops’ before. Paul was around 70, one of the older ‘White’ bro’s- most of these older guys have past stories of being in prison- many for murder- they wind up coming to Texas and I meet them here on the streets- the homeless bunch. Paul supposedly killed someone years ago in Fla. Did his time and wound up here. I liked Pops [died a while back] I’d invite Pop’s and New York Tony [my buddy the crack addict] to go eat- Tony would go- Pops just wanted his beer. Yet Paul was a friend- I did help him run errands every so often. The older guys protect themselves by having a dangerous reputation- Pops stabbed ‘Cowboy’ [Texas Heroin addict] almost killed him; you don’t mess with Pops. I guess one day Pops was thinking he needed to explain himself- so me and Tony and Pop’s are hanging out, somehow Pop’s brings up the stabbing [he did almost kill Cowboy] Pop’s says ‘you know, one day I was whittling some wood [LOL] and Cowboy fell on my knife’ it was kinda funny- I did tell Pop’s ‘I don’t know Pop’s- sounds like a story to me’. Hey, I couldn’t let him think I was that gullible. Over the years at the fire house I had lots of my buddies come by and visit- after a while the guys at the station caught on- they would tell me ‘hey John- your convies [convicts] were here looking for you the other day’. As I’m reading thru the gospels right now- you see a strange thing- Jesus is interacting with the religious crowd- enters the temple- goes to the synagogue- these are the ‘meeting places’ where all the religious elites of the day gather- they have a tradition where they meet once a week- read from their bibles [the Torah] and live these regulated religious lives- that never seem to touch the hurting world around them. Now Jesuscomes on the scene and he gathers this rag tag bunch of guys- starts preaching and living in the streets, and yes- the hookers and the outcasts- they can’t get enough of him! As a matter of fact this is the very thing that ‘irks the hell’ out of the religious crowd- they say ‘look- everyone is listening to him’! Jesus came to seek and to save the lost- the N.Y. Tonies- the Poppa Paul’s- sure there are real risks involved- Jesus said ‘greater love has no man than this- that he would lay down his life for his friends’ damn- find some friends.

 

[1545] POLITICS, RELIGION UPDATE [11-30-2010] Recently there have been a few notable news stories; The Popes new book- Light of the World- and the media frenzy over a MINOR statement about condom use [I was gonna name this post ‘Condoms- Condoms everywhere’ but heck- I post the blog all over the world- figured I’d reign it in a little]. The other story is the Wikkileaks release of hundreds of thousands of secret documents that give insight [and in some cases cause risk] to the major players in the theatre. A week or so ago I wrote a post named Risk- I spoke about the reality of other countries trying to manipulate our soldiers to do the dirty work for them- sure enough that’s the biggest story coming from the leaked documents. Many Middle Eastern states have been exposed thru the leak- leaders of those nations doing their best at getting us to strike Iran. The news is very damaging for these leaders- many of their people were unaware of the leaders desire to hit Iran. Now- what about the war? As I cover the ongoing war in Afghanistan, I am trying my best not to misrepresent the story. Yes, I’m against the war- want our guy’s out- within a year! General Petraeus has said [privately- Bob Woodward’s book] that this is a war our kids and their kids will be fighting- hope not. In 1979 the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan- they were attempting to establish a communist state. We backed the ‘resistance’ fighters- the Mujahedeen. After 10 years- and an estimated 1 million civilian casualties, the Soviet Union pulled out and in 3 short years [1992] the Mujahedeen toppled the puppet govt. A few years later the Taliban would rise to power. The Soviet invasion destroyed the country- they did indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas and did not limit civilian deaths. So far the NATO forces have killed around 10 thousand Taliban and about the same number of civilians. Afghanistan has experienced around a 10% annual economic growth rate the past few years, many children are in school and medical aid has improved- over all our ten year venture has not been like the Soviet one. Yet- our people have died [around 1500 in Afghanistan- under 5 thousand in Iraq] and we have killed civilians. Our stated goal is to help the Afghan people establish a strong enough govt. that would be able to resist any future attempts for Al Qaeda or other terrorist networks to operate out of the region; the 9-11 attack was launched from Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Yet there are talks going on right now to make a peace deal with the Taliban- so I do feel that our guys dying in the field, fighting the Taliban- and at the same time Karzai is sitting at the table with them- it just doesn’t seem right. We also have our aircraft carrier doing ‘war games’ in the Yellow Sea [right off Korea- inside Chinas economic zone] and the tension for all out war betweenNorth and South Korea is as high as it has ever been. A few months back the North torpedoed the Chenoan- a South Korean warship- and killed 40 something men. Last week they hit the South Korean island right off of their coast and killed 2 civilians and 2 Korean marines. Our response has been laughable at times. We said ‘look- we don’t want war- lets all calm down’ [good]. Then the media say’s ‘the president is standing up to them- he is still going to do the war games’. We looked stupid- to be honest. ManySouth Koreans have been demonstrating for a stronger response- they want to go to war. So these past few weeks have been hectic- I don’t fully see the Wikkileaks thing as a total disaster- many have demonized the guy who runs Wikkileaks- Julian Assange- in some ways I think he’s doing the world a favor. Okay- guess I won’t get to the Condom story- maybe another day.

 

[1546] JULIAN ASSANGE- Okay- it looks like I’m gonna have to get personal! Yesterday I wrote a post on the Wikileaks ‘leaks’ and the developing storm to follow. Sure enough the media and the West in general have labeled the founder of Wikileaks as a war criminal- rapist [Chris Matthews-better not start with him!] and an overall disgrace to human kind. So what exactly did he do? He leaked thousands of ‘secret’ military/govt. files that have exposed a lot of behind the scenes dealing. His organization actually contacts the U.S. govt. first, and allows us redact names and identities of people who we feel might be in danger. Wikileaks also gets published in the world’s major news papers. And a lot of the ‘behind the scenes’ material reveals the hidden agendas of other nations as they say one thing in public- but another thing in private. Now- I just watched Chris Matthews [yes- another all night news night!] and his rage against Julian Assange- Matthews- the man who still can’t stop speaking about all the ‘neo con’ hidden agendas of Bush and his team- a ‘news man’ who himself tries to expose hidden agenda’s of top leaders. Yet he can’t stand the fact that someone else would interfere with Obama’s agenda- so he rages against Assange. There is a story in the bible- about a prophet who was rebuked by his donkey. The old King James version says ‘the dumb ass, speaking with man’s voice’ you know every time I watch hardball, this verse pops into my mind.

 

[1547] THE SAGA CONTINUES- I guess I’m going to try and stick with our countries response to the Wikileaks ‘leaks’ and the medias total unwillingness to hold this president and his administration responsible for anything. Today the world is hunting down JulianAssange- the infamous head of the organization that leaked thousands of secret files. Interpol has him listed as a rapist- our people see him as a terrorist, who needs to be captured and tried for war crimes. For what? Whether you like themanspolitics or not- he simply performed the same function that goes on everyday with reportersand ‘secret sources’ he received documents and made public the info- this is not a crime! Every journalist and free media fan should be shaking in their boots over the seeming willingness to go after this man and shut down his web site- whether we like it or not- this is what we call FREE PRESS. Now, did the soldier who downloaded the files break the law? Where not even sure about that! It seems as if the U.S. govt. blew it by not having these documents sealed [on-line] in a way that would not allow any person to access them. So what should the story be then? That the Obama administration was so incompetent that they let the thing happen! I have not heard a single criticism against this administration- he’s viewed as a victim- not a person who should be held accountable for the actual failure of our govt. to contain secret info. Can you imagine the calls for Bush- or his secretary of state to resign- if these things were revealed during his time in office? As the days go by we continue to see more fallout from the leaks- Hillary Clinton seems to have directed our diplomats to spy illegally during their duties. If Bush’s people were found out- Reid and Kerry would be roaring on the floor of the senate for a resignation- so far not a peep. Another news leak- during the Iraq war one of our tanks struck a hotel in Iraq that killed 2 civilian news reporters. The family of the Spanish reporter has sued the U.S. over his death- they have made a video over it. The leaks revealed that our govt. has been pressuring Spain to get the charges dropped- and that Spain has been negotiating with us to drop the charges. Yet the family of the reporter was being told all along that Spain’s leaders were fighting for them- they have been lied to- right now this story is dominating the news cycle in Spain. How does our govt. respond to these injustices? We label the news person who revealed these things as a serial rapist who has put people’s lives in jeopardy- we aren’t admitting that a lot of the things that are in jeopardy are the secret behind the scenes deals of those in power- and how they run rough shod over the common man. Today is 12- 2- 2010- let’s see how long it takes for the liberal media to wake up and see this story for what it is- if we as a people accept the fact that leaked info- that makes us look bad- can be responded to by accusing the ‘leaker’ of treason, terrorism, war crimes- etc. then that’s a bad day for freedom of the press.

 

[1548] THE FALLOUT- Okay, think this will be the last political post for this recent run [hey- I don’t want to stroke out!]. Let’s review a few things; remember what we were told when the Wikileaks files were first released? The media and our govt. [the Obama administration included] said the files were releasing the names of ‘undercover’ people- they were releasing info that would get our guys killed- they basically claimed the info. was going to cause harm/damage to many of our fighting men and women. What has happened? All the stories I have seen have been things that exposed the hypocrisy and lying of those in power. How our govt. put pressure on other countries not to pursue justice in certain cases- how our top political people have publicly lied to us about our actions in the wars. About a year ago ‘the nation’ magazine ran a story on our troops operating ‘illegally’ inside Pakistan’s borders. Our govt. publicly denied it; Richard Holbrook- special envoy to the region- stated in no uncertain terms that those stories were false. The press secretary for the White House denied it. The reporter who was about to run the story got a call from one of our top military leaders- he was warned not to run the story- there would ‘be consequences’. The story ran, our govt. denied it. The leaks showed us that yes indeed; we were operating in Pakistan in a way that we were denying to the public. They lied to us- not about an insignificant thing- but about war. Former president Putin [Soviet Union] was on Larry king the other night; he ‘told off’ the U.S. govt. he said we should mind our own damn business. The leaks revealed how our guys were gossiping about Putin and his disarray among his men. The leaks showed how the Obama administration put tremendous pressure on Spain and other countries- to not pursue any ‘war crimes’ investigations against Bush and Cheney, Obama pressured other countries to not pursue it. Lots of these leaks have not been about putting our men in danger- or exposing undercover ‘ops’- they’ve been about revealing how our govt. has lied, cheated, did back room deals- all under the guise of ‘doing what needed to get done’. This week we had Peter King [Republican rep. from N.Y.] call for the assassination of Julian Assange ‘on site’. Sarah Palin said the same- Mike Huckabee advocates the execution of the disturbed soldier who illegally stole the files from the computer base. ‘Assassinate’ wow- strong words to use against a person who exposed the hidden deals and agendas of our leaders. Our wonderful media- both sides [the MSNBC/FOX crowd] – produce political theatre for their target audience- the bottom line is what their concerned about. We need to keep ‘public news’ sources around [P.B.S.- radio- etc.] We need sources that are not run by the ad money they bring in. Just last night I started seeing a little change in the coverage of JulianAssange, and saw some media shows using the Wikileaks in a positive way- treating the leaks like real news stories- carefully looking at the real ‘hidden’ info that we were previously not aware of- that’s what the media is supposed to do with ‘leaked’ info- they do it all the time for heaven’s sake! I don’t know how this story will end- I’m sure I’ll write a few more posts as time goes by- I just wanted to make us all aware of our own biases- our ‘inability’ to see that we were sold a bill of goods- we were told ‘innocents will die- assassinate the man responsible on site’ now were giving it a second thought- maybe we jumped the gun-maybe we didn’t truly think for ourselves but let others do the thinking for us. Maybe we’ll do better next time around- maybe?

 

[1549] THEY WILL LEARN WAR NO MORE- Isaiah the prophet. This verse comes from the book of Isaiah- he also speaks of the nature of Christ’s kingdom by saying ‘the wolf will lay down with the lamb’. Isaiah has more prophecies about Jesus [Messianic prophecies] than any other Old Testament prophet. To all my ‘bible students- preachers’ most of us our aware of the various ways teachers interpret these passages; we see the dual nature of the messianic prophecies [that is many prophecies speak of Jesus first coming and second coming in one verse- you don’t see the time lapse between the 1st and 2nd coming]. At the same time we often overlook the fact that the nature of God’s kingdom is one of peace- not war. Yes ‘Make love- not war’ actually has biblical backing! Now when Jesus arrived on the scene in the 1st century, he came at a time when the nation of Israel was under ‘occupation’. Rome was the controlling authority- and the Jews knew it. Israel had different views among her people on how to deal with the Roman occupation- some wanted a violent overthrow of the Roman govt., these were called Zealots- others took a more moderate stance. Out of Jesus 12 disciples, 2 were Zealots- Simon and Judas. They thought they were getting in on a strong Messianic movement that would be violent in nature. Yet Jesus would teach them that those who live by the sword will die by it. He showed them a better way- when he said ‘greater love has no man than this that he would die for his friends’. He wasn’tsaying ‘that he would risk his life in battle- while trying to kill others- and maybe die in the process’. No, he was speaking about non violent protest- even to the point of laying down one’s life. He taught them ‘war no more’. I understand that my position on these wars has upset people, and I do not see our brave men and women as ‘the enemy’. But I feel the leadership- especially in the church, has not rightly understood these things- the nature of Christ’s kingdom is one of peace- not war. When some of the most popular TV evangelists, and ‘end times’ books promote an idea that seems to pit natural Israel against Muslim/Arab nations- and they give scenarios that seem to ‘encourage’ one side fighting- and killing the other side- then in these ways we are teaching ‘war’ that is we are presenting Christ’s kingdom in a way that seems to say ‘yes, God is in this violent thing- and when he comes back he will personally wipe out the other side’. We have not done right in the church- we have not taught ‘war no more’.

 

[1550] ASSANGE- THE POPE- AND JOHN THE BAPTIST- Kinda wanted to cover the recent developments in the Wikileaks case- also a few more notes from the Pope’s book- and a little bible stuff; let’s see what I can do. First- The head guy in charge of the leaks that have exposed our govt. and other governments secret behind the scenes wheeling and dealing- has been arrested in London. They took him in on the Interpol charge that he ‘raped’ 2 women in Sweden. These charges stem from encounters that JulianAssange had with these ‘ladies’ while doing some type of seminar on their work as freedom of the press crusaders. It seems as if the women- who were attendees- found it worthwhile to have hooked up with the big shot of the week. Initially the reports said that the women did voluntarily agree to havingunprotected sex with Assange- yet they later got together- after talking for a few days- and went together to the police to file their claim. Initially Sweden rejected the charge- it seemed like a voluntary type thing! A famous lawyer, who is trying to get Sweden to toughen their rape laws, to include stuff like this- took the case. That’s how it got back into the courts. Now- it seems as if this lawyer is using the publicity of the case to leverage his own cause- which is to extend the rape laws of Sweden. That’s the case- rapist? You tell me. In the midst of it all our country is trying to extradite the man to face all types of future charges. Where not ‘officially’ doing it- but the behind the scenes deals are in the works. First Sweden still has to get him. Okay- this whole case will be a future test case for freedom of the internet and just who qualifies as being ‘press’.

 

As more of the leaks come to light- we keep finding out about how our govt. lied to us, and deceived us. Last night I caught an interview with a family member of the victims of the Lockerbie plane attack. If you remember a few years back a terrorist shot down a plane over Scotland, 283 people died- many Americans. The case was tried in Scotland and the man was put in prison- with the guarantee that he would not get out. Yet Scotland let him go a few months back on ‘humanitarian’ concerns. He supposedly was dying of cancer and had only a few months to live. Now, when they released him our leaders were outraged! Yes Obama and all the rest were fuming! [in public] but the Wikileaks showed us that they all knew about the release 10 months before it happened- and we kinda turned a blind eye to the deal. Britain was accused of releasing him back to Libya because they wouldn’t deal with the U.K. unless they let him go. So the family member who found all this out- thanks to Wikileaks- was outraged, our govt. lied to them. Oh yes, and another talking head called for the assassination of Assange- Bob Beckel- a Democrat who works for Fox said someone needs to put a bullet in his head. Can you imagine any of the media talking this way so openly about a Muslim journalist? This case is important because it shows us how far the govt. and the corporate world will go to silence someone who is exposing them to the light [Assange is about to release leaks on a huge American bank].

 

Okay- just a few more things. While reading the Popes book I like the way he gets into the details of the different perspectives of the gospel writers and the give and take between Jesus and the disciples. I didn’t get this from the book- but the book led me into the study. If you read the account of John the Baptist in Matthew chapter 3- you see John baptizing in the Jordan and the big wigs of the day show up- they want to get baptized by John. You would think John would take the whole thing as a diplomat- you know- greeting them with pomp and stuff. Instead he calls them a bunch of snakes and serpents- he says ‘who warned you to flee from the judgment that’s sure to come’- the leaders and influential men of the day were facing their own judgment- and they didn’t like the writing on the wall [sound familiar?]. In Luke’s gospel [chapter 3] you have the soldiers also coming to John- they ask him ‘what should we do?’ John says ‘do violence to no man’ wow! Now you’re meddling. Society was being challenged by John in many ways- he himself was spoken about in Isaiah and Malachi [Old Testament books]. Yet Jesus comes to John to get baptized and John says ‘I’m not worthy to do this- to carry out the mission’ Jesus says it needs to be done. In another gospel [John] we read how they come to John and ask him ‘are you the Messiah? Are you the Elijahprophet who was to come’ and John denies it. He says he is simply the voice- a messenger. There was a prophecy about John in the book of Malachi- it said a prophet- like Elijah- would come before the coming of Jesus- so one time they asked Jesus ‘if you’re the Messiah- then where’s the Elijah prophet who was to come first?’ Jesus said it was John. What’s going on here? John seemed to not be able to accept who he really was- yes- he had a bad image of himself- yet even though he felt unworthy to fulfill the task he would take it to the end. John would finally be executed for his ‘free speech’ at the time it seemed like the right thing to do- now it seems like a gross injustice.

 

[1551]- WHERE’S THE CONFESSING CHURCH? During WW2 the German church was split on how she should respond to the rise of Hitler and the racist tendencies that were beginning to be revealed as time went on. Many GermanChristians initially embraced his ideas- they seemed to join a nationalistic/patriotic spirit in with the practice of their religion. Germany was coming off of years of national inferiority aftertheir loss in WW1 and many Christians embraced the new felt spirit of ‘exceptionalism’ that was surging thru the land. On the other side you had men like Dietrich Bonheoffer who resisted what he saw as unjust govt.- others took his stance, these were called ‘the confessing church’ they believed it was their responsibility to speak out- to ‘confess’ the things they saw as unjust. Bonheoffer would get executed for his role in attempting to assassinateHitler.

 

As we continue to read the release of the Wikileaks documents- we see more and more how our govt. has lied, deceived, been involved in the deaths of many civilians- and both the media and the govt. have denied these things- until they actually were exposed. Yemen. The last few years there were many attacks in the country of Yemen- when these attacks first started the U.S. govt. vehementlydenied any involvement at all. The official reports and the N.Y. times ran stories that said ‘Today in Yemen- Yemeni fighter planes struck a terrorist compound and possibly killed some high level Al Qaeda terrorists’. During a press conference- state dept. spokesman P.J. Crowley was point blank asked ‘are we involved in ANY military activities in Yemen’- he point blank said no. There was speculation that we were doing secret drone attacks in the country- our govt. said ‘NO’. On average about 50 civilians die for every target we hit- quite a cost. So obviously these innocents demand to know the truth about why/who killed their kids. Yemen and the U.S. simply saw it in their best interest to lie. I mean- these people are just pawns on the grand stage- right? What rights does the average person have to really know what’s going on? So the Wikileaks revealed that yes indeed the U.S. did do the strikes- yes indeed we did kill many innocents- and yes indeed Yemen said ‘you do the strikes, and we’ll tell our people it was us’. They were caught in the act. So what is our govt. saying now? P.J. Crowley- the state dept. spokesmen who lied- he is now saying ‘well, I meant we weren’tinvolved in a specific attack’. When you read the actual transcript of the press conference- he was asked ‘are we involved IN ANY military activity in Yemen’? His answer- NO.

 

Last week our military began trial hearings against a team of U.S. soldiers for their involvement in what’s being called ‘a death squad’. This group of young men were caught killing Afghan civilians- they shot a farmer in a field- cut off his finger for a souvenir and eventually were caught. Now- do these guys represent the majority of our troops in the field- of course not! Yet this story runs as top news in the Muslim media- have you even heard about it?

 

How should the church respond to these types of things? Should we be the silent majority- like Germanys nationalistic church who saw ‘church and state’ as one big patriotic cause? Should we just keep ‘preaching the gospel’ while our govt. carries out hidden agendas and lies to us and the people who are being killed? Should we question the ridiculous strategy of engaging in these never ending campaigns? What’s out strategy? Do we believe that after more than 10 years- and thousands of lives- that eventually we can set up Democraticgovernments that will be allies to the U.S. ? What’s to prevent these radical religious countries from voting in some nut- like the president of Iran- and we spent all our time dying and killing for this?

 

We tried this in the West Bank- we helped the Palestinians set up some free and open elections. We wheeled anddealed with Israel and Palestine- we gave much aid and effort- after all was said and done they finally held their democratic election- and they elected Hamas!

 

What is the primary cause for terrorism amongst radical Islamists? They see our forces in their ‘holy lands’ as the number one cause for resistance. After our initial war [Bush 1] to expel Iraq from Kuwait- we for the first time established bases in Arab countries. Saudi Arabia- Iraq- etc. Bin laden and the rise of Al Qaeda were a direct result of what they saw as Americans’ ‘defiling’ their sacred land. Do you remember any car bombings and these types of efforts before that time? Yes- you always had some type of fighting- but not to the level that ratcheted up after the first gulf war. So, the number one reason these radicals are carrying out this insane agenda is because they see us as invaders in their land. So how do we respond to the threat- WEINVADE MORE LAND! Overall the strategy is not going to work. Right now we are fighting the Taliban- who are these people? They are ethnic Afghans who have NO WORLWIDE AGENDA. They see themselves as ‘freedom fighters’ who simply want to ‘restore’ their land to a religious theocracy. Not good- but no real threat to the U.S. So why are we fighting them? They gave space for Al Qaeda to operate out of their country. Okay- Al Qaeda’s been long gone- yet we keep fighting this group who sees themselves as defending their homeland. Its nuts! It’s like if some gang attacked you, they lived down the street in some hotel. So you start a war with the hotel owners and the gang leaves. Instead of spending all your time and resources hunting down the gang- you start a never ending war with the hotel owners! Not only is this stupid- but the gang is laughing at the strategy- it actually helps the gang to recruit more members- because the gang points to the fact that we are in their ‘holy land’ which after all is the original justification for the existence of the gang! All this would be laughable if it weren’t so sad.

 

So what does the church say about all this- not much. We keep hawking our religious wares on our TV channels- we keep appealing for a never ending need for money- and all the time the world is going to hell in a hand basket. It’s time for us to become ‘the confessing church’ to speak truth to power- because our govt. seems to have a hard time telling us the truth.

 

[1552] A SOCIALIST- A SEAFOOD JOINT- AND THE BAILOUTS OF THE RICH- Last night I told my daughter ‘take orders from everyone- my treat- George’s steaks and seafood’. So she looks up the number and their closed! They went out of business. This was one of my favorite spots- been around ever since I lived in Corpus Christi.

Yesterday I watched part of the speech Bernie Sanders [Senator from Vermont] gave on the Senate floor. He spoke for 8 hours- the closest thing to a real filibuster in years. Sanders is the only member of the Socialist party that is a member of the senate. He spoke in opposition to the deal the president cut with the Republicans; many Democrats are fuming and it looks like the president has a mutiny on his hands.

 

Though I’m not a socialist- yet Sanders speech was very enlightening. He made some great points. At a time when our country is in serious financial trouble- should we be giving billionaires a break on the estate tax? The Walton family alone [Wal Mart] would gain an extra 30 billion as a result of the deal the president made with the Repubs. 30 billion! You ask ‘John- are you telling us we should soak the rich’? Yes- yes- lets please start soaking them- as soon as possible! Look- I know the whole debate between supply side economics and the trickledown effect- the truth is we tried it and it doesn’t really work. If we were true capitalists we would have never bailed out Wall Street and the bankers.

 

When my favorite Seafood joint couldn’t pay the bills- what did they do? They went under. That’s capitalism. When Wall street and the bankers and all their corporate friends got in trouble- what did they do- go under? No- we- the American taxpayers bailed them out. Yet at the same time many poor and average Americans are losing their jobs, their homes are being foreclosed on- many are on the streets. Are we acting with the same urgency as we did when Wall Street was in trouble? No- Why? Probably because they have no real advocates working inside the White House. All the big shots who warned Bush and Obama that we need to act fast- these guys were all part of the group who would lose fortunes if we didn’t bail them out. Paulson. Bernanke, Geithner- all these guys have friends- family- personal fortunes at stake- sure they made it sound like a dire emergency- because to them it was!

 

So we opted to spend nearly a trillion dollars to bail these guys out- and they kept their fortunes- even the bankers kept their million dollar bonuses- a real travesty. So why are the Dems mad at Obama? Because he pledged- over and over again not to extend the Bush tax cuts for the rich- and he didn’t keep his word. This alone- extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich- will cost us a trillion dollars- it will add an extra trillion to the debt. Trillion! When the news got out- the bond market almost crashed. Why? The investors see the writing on the wall- we are not going to responsibly deal with our debt problem. Obama’s commission failed, and we just added another trillion to our national debt. We are going down the road of Britain and the E.U- we are not going to act until there is another major crisis.

 

The responsible thing we probably should have done is let the tax cuts expire for ‘the rich’. This deal puts a burden on the poor and rewards the rich. It reminds me of Reagan’s ‘war on poverty’ one day the news reported ‘the White House announced the war on poverty is over’ gee- I didn’t think the poor would give up so soon? Look- what do I have against the rich? They won’t let me join the club! Well actually our country has created an environment that allowed for the billionaires to become billionaires- so in that sense they do owe a special- extra debt to society as a whole. And many of them know that. Buffet, Gates, and just last week Zuckerberg [Facebook] all have made moves and spoken publicly on their responsibility to pay more- use their wealth for the public good- many of them see the special burden they bare because of their wealth. It looks like this deal the president made will pass- maybe not? But then the Repubs will be sworn in and they will pass it- or maybe something worse! So for now we’ll do our best. No more steaks and seafood for me though- just wish George’s could get a bailout like the rest of them.

 

[1553] [tomy blog- facebook readers. I know I have been pounding you guys with news and politics these past few days. Figured I’d give it a break and share this critique I shared with Scot McKnight. This is a critique of an article Scot wrote in the current Issue of Christianity Today. I recommend all of you subscribe to the magazine. It’s the best one out there at the time [First Things- Commonweal are good- maybe a little too scholarly for the new reader- C.T. covers a broader audience].

 

Scot- just finished reading your article in Christianity Today magazine. Liked the way you choose to harmonize Paul and Jesus thought. A few things; I never struggled personally with ‘whose gospel do we preach’? Or I never really saw it in terms of Jesus’ gospel versus Paul’s’. I prefer to see Jesus ‘kingdom message/gospel’ as the overriding message for believers and the church- yet Paul’semphasis on justification by faith was due to the ‘crisis mode’ of the letters he was penning- in essence he was dealing with the 1st century Jewish mentality of ‘works of the law’ versus ‘believing in Jesus’ in essence Paul is battling with the very essence of who gets in the kingdom [justification by faith] and who doesn’t [those who seek it by works- Romans 4-9,10]. I would also note that you mention how the synoptic gospels use the word Justification only a few times- true. But even before I read the article I thought ‘I hope Scot deals with the many times John’s gospel says ‘believe- eternal life’ in the same verse’. In essence that’s John’s way of saying ‘justification by faith’. Overall- liked the article- God bless.  John

 

(1554) MODERNISM- okay- need to take a break from politics [current!] and news! Let’s do some history/philosophy. Modernism [modernity] refers to the time period between the mid 17thcentury to the mid 20th century [loosely]. During the scientific revolution, coming off the heels of the Reformation- there were many challenges to past ways of thinking about religion, knowledge, politics and existence in general. Many new thinkers felt the old forms of thought were outdated- and as man advances he needs to ground his existence in rationality as opposed to religion [Descartes’]. Not all thinkers rejected religion- John Locke and Immanuel Kant tried to show that religion could be rational- not all religion had to be ‘blind faith’. Others rejected that idea [David Hume] and said if you wanted society to be rational- you had to reject religion as a foundation for thought. Modern atheists- like Sam Harris- would say the same thing. In Harris’ 2004 book- The End of Faith- he teaches that all true religion is radical in nature- that those who believe you can be moderate in religion are wrong- that the religious texts themselves [Koran- Bible] call for radicalism and violence and therefore the only hope for peace in the world is to eliminate religion. Basically I think Harris should stick to atheism and not delve too deep into Christian philosophy. The Christian ‘religion/ethic’, while possessing scriptures [Old testament] that certainty do advocate violence- yet the central historical event in Christianity is the event of the Cross and the person of Christ- whose message said ‘Moses said- but I say’. Christianity contains within her texts the mandate to reject the old forms of violence and to embrace a new way of love- so Harris missed the boat on this one. But you have had thinkers [past and present] who have said ‘we need to eradicate the world of all traces of religion in order for man to reach his highest good’. The thinker Nietzsche would pronounce ‘God is dead’ in his 1882 book called The Gay Science [I’ll leave it alone]. Both Marx and Freud would join him in their rejection of God in the last half of the 19th century. So many felt the rise of modernism- along with the descent of religion was mans ultimate goal- as man advances he would mature from this ‘psychological’ weakness and accept a world without God. Than in the 20th century you had some major events that questioned whether or not modern man could survive without true religious morality. We had the world wars and the most violent century in our history as ‘moderns’. The election of Jimmy Carter- the first self professed ‘Born Again’ Christian to become president- and the Iranian revolution in 1979- the rise of an Islamic state based on radical interpretations of Islam. These events challenged the ‘hope ‘of those who felt like religion was waning and mans rationality was winning the day. So that’s why you had the rise of the new atheists who began a campaign to revive the ‘death of God’ movement and to advocate for what they felt was necessary for man to advance along the modern path. Today we are actually living in what’s called ‘the Postmodern Era’ but for the purpose of this short note we don’t want to go down that road at this time. Has man advanced- ‘modernized’ to the point where he does not need ‘God’ anymore? Can man simply build a Utopian society without God? All those who advocated for a society without God- ultimately failed in coming up with a rational basis for law and order- for who has the right to ‘make the rules’ in this new society- in essence those who tried the Freudian way could never come up with a system of govt. and law without having to borrow from the Christian world view- man cannot simply govern himself based on some atheistic principle of ‘reason’ apart from God [who decides whose reason is right?]. The atheist’s charge that all religion at its core is radical and dangerous- without reason- has been proven false. True religion can very much be reasonable- that is being rational and religious can go hand in hand- all religious adherents do not have to be ‘Fundamentalists’ as Harris claims- and the Modern experiment has not shown us that mans ultimate destiny is to rise above religious belief and attain some type of society without God and faith- that experiment has been tried- and found wanting.

 

Okay- I have to make a confession. These past few weeks I have been mad at the president- I thought he was a weak leader who caved in too quickly to the Republicans on the tax deal. Then this week while watching the news I saw a bunch of clips of John Boehner crying. It seems as if he cries at the drop of the hat. So maybe the president isn’t weak- maybe he just couldn’t take sitting in the meetings with a grown man crying every time he couldn’t get his way?

 

[1555] I really want to cover a little more Philosophy/history- but let me mention a few recent news/political developments. This past week Richard Holbrook died. He was our special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan. I actually wrote a post about him a week or so ago. The Wikileaks revealed him to be less than truthful in his dealings with the public. The reason I want to mention him is because after he died the media [both left and right] praised him as a wonderful man- a great humanitarian- on and on. Holbrook was said to have been the highest diplomat in his area of foreignpolicy who never became secretary of state. If you remember during the presidential campaign many thought he would be picked to take the position if a Democrat won. He was also said to have had a ‘big’ image of himself- he saw himself as a very important figure. I saw an interview he did with Rachel Maddow one day- he simply gave the same justifications for the war in Afghanistan as Bush and Cheney gave- no difference. Holbrook was involved with our actions in East Timor in the late 70’s [Carter administration] and also played a role in our ‘war’ in Yugoslavia. During the 90’s under the Clinton administration we ‘sided’ with the Muslim’s who were fighting the ‘Christians’. Slobodan Milosevic was the president and we backed the Muslims because we claimed the Serbs were practicing Genocide. So the Muslims did the same against the Serbs when it was their turn. Holbrook had a hand in those killings as well. So whatever a personspolitical leanings are- we should also be truthful about the history of people. If someone has leaned more heavily towards the justification for U.S. action- and has pushed for the more aggressive role- than let the record show that. When Cheney or Rumsfeld die- I’m sure you will have some who will praise them- and others who won’t. In Holbrook’s case there seemed to be no one telling the other side.

 

Okay- let me quickly cover a few more things. I’m doing a study right now on the Western Intellectual tradition- covering the period between 1600-2000. Some if it gets a little dry- but it’s important for believers to have a basic grasp on this period. Many thinkers went thru a transformation during this time- in the pre-modern era philosophy and theology went hand in hand. But during the enlightenment and scientific revolution many new ideas arose. In the midst of the 17th century [1641] the famous Christian thinker- Rene Descartes’- sent a letter [called the Meditations- it would be released in book form later] to the university of Paris [the leading university of the day- theology and philosophy were the main fields of study] and he challenged the thinkers of the day to ground their arguments for God in Reason as opposed to Revelation [meaning tradition and what God has ‘revealed’ to us thru the bible]. Descartes’ believed that the Christian thinker could argue his case in a more powerful way if he based his argument on reason. Now to be sure this idea was notnew- you had men like Thomas Aquinas advocate this in the 13th century- and as far back as 400 years before Christ the philosopher Aristotle used this line when speaking of the ‘prime mover’ [God]. But Descartes is credited with challenging the church of his day to do philosophy on this new ground. John Lock, Immanuel Kant and others would take certain aspects of Descartes ideas and develop them more fully. Some were more skeptical than others- and some rejected the idea that any reason/rationality could ever be combined with religious belief. Later on in the 19th century you had many openly advocate a type of reasoning that would totally exclude God from the picture. But for the most part the earlier thinkers did not go down that road- they thought it foolish to deny the existence of God- all things coming into existence from nothing seemed be a non starter for them- yet many of today’smost famous atheists seem to have no problem espousing a view that is absolutely proven to be false [you can never- ever- ever get something from nothing- which is the most popular view of the big bang theory among many atheists today]. So I think Christians today should be more aware of making the argument for the existence of God through rational/reasonable means- the other day I heard a radio preacher trying to debunk the theory of Evolution- he argued that it can’t be true because the bible says God made everything. Well this argument doesn’t cut it with people who don’t believe the bible! Likewise we need to be able to give a defense for the faith- without always appealing to the articles of the faith while doing it.

 

[1556] REALISTS-NOMINALISTS- Let me do a little more on the development of philosophy and how Christians played a major role in new ways of thinking and ‘knowing’ [epistemology]. I mentioned Rene Descartes the other day- Descartes challenged the Christina thinkers of his day to approach apologetics [arguments for God’s existence] from rational grounds; instead of saying ‘God exists because the bible/tradition teach it’ he showed we can argue from the ground of reason. Descartes was a ‘realist’ that is a thinker who believed in Universal principles- the ancient philosophers [Aristotle, Plato- etc.] taught that there were universal ideas that existed- the example was if you think of a Horse- or a Chair- that in the mind of people we all have this concept of what these things are- but the reality of the universal idea of horse/chair exist outside of us- they are not only thoughts in our minds. The Nominalists rejected this idea- they taught that we interact with our 5 senses with things in the world- and thru this interaction our minds passively receivethis knowledge and we come up with ideas- not because these ideas are universal ideas that already exist- but because our minds have ‘discovered’ them thru the senses. These thinkers were also called Empiricists. Men like David Hume would take this approach. Then in the 18th century you had the German philosopher Immanuel Kant challenge the skepticism of the Empiricists and he would become one of the most influential thinkers for our time. You would be hard pressed to find another philosopher who has had more influence on western thought than Kant. Kant too believed that man could not prove Godabsolutelythru natural means- but he did teach that it was rational/reasonable for man to believe in the existence of God- though he said you can’ttotally prove him thru natural means. This was a different approach from the pure Empiricists- they taught that God/religion were irrational. Kant put a twist on Empiricism- he said that man does interact with the world thru his 5 senses, but instead of ideas/knowledge being a product of the mind of man passively receiving this knowledge- mans mind categorizes these interactions and it is thru this function of mans mind that we have knowledge. He carried the idea a little further than Hume. In the end of the day Immanuel Kant believed that not only is it rational to believe in God- but it is necessary. For society to ever function properly man needed to believe that his soul was immortal, that an eternal being existed that would some day judge man[or reward him] for his actions in this life. Though Kant did not accept the Realists view that we could prove God by rational means- yet he did believe in the necessity of man to believe in God. It has been said that Kant kicked God out the front door- but snuck him in thru the back. Okay- know some of this gets dry at times, but I think it is important for Christians to have some idea of the development of thought and philosophy thru the ages- many atheistic philosophers have argued against the existence of God- but many Christian thinkers have made just as strong [if not stronger] arguments on the other side- we need to know both sides.

 

[1557] THE FIGHTER- Yesterday I was reading the movie critics and I found out that the movie ‘The Fighter’ was the story of Mickey Ward- a fighter I have watched mywhole life [been a boxing fan forever]. So I told the girls ‘let’s go see the movie’ and we loved it. The movie is rated R- by the way ‘my girls’ are all older- the youngest is 18- oldest 25. But the movie told the story of Mickey ward and his brother Dick Eglund. The movie had ‘a movie’ within it- they showed how HBO did a documentary on Dick Eglund- following him and filming him. The documentary was on crack addiction in Lowell mass. [their hometown] and I remember watching it one night at the fire house- was surprised to see Mickey wards brother in the documentary- that’s why I remember it. The movie follows the story of Mickey’s dysfunctional family- and how his brother- once a great fighter himself- was Mickey’s trainer. His mom was his manager- they took advantage of Mickey in a way. Eventually Mickey would get a couple of good breaks and he finally won a title. I was surprised they didn’t cover the 3 great fights Mickey had with Arturo Gatti- the Italian fighter form Jersey City [right around where I grew up]. These 3 fights put Mickey on the map and made him enough money that allowed him to quit his job as a street maintenance worker for the city. I liked the movie a lot- of course I’m boxing fan- so that’s natural. But I think itswell worth the 35 dollars [popcorn, tickets, soda for 3- yes at least 35]. I think Christian Bale will get some recognition for his role as Mickey’scrack addicted brother- he stole the show. Mark Walhbergalso did a good job as Mickey- but Bale was great. The funny parts of the movie are seeing Mickey’s dysfunctional family- his mom and sisters remind you of watching a Jerry Springer episode- really funny. Okay- enough for now- if you get a chance to see it I think it will be worth the 35 bucks.

 

[1558] ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call his name Immanuel- which is translated “God with us”. Matthew 1:23. This is an interesting- and important verse for all believers- we celebrate the reality of the virgin birth of Jesus during this season. Do you know where this verse comes from originally? It comes from the mouth of the prophet Isaiah [chapter 7]. The scenario is the king of Judah [Ahaz] is targeted by 2 other nations- Israel [the northern tribe of Israel] and Syria. These 2 kings make an alliance against the southern tribe of Judah and decide to make a breach [hole] in Judah’s wall and use their land as a staging ground for future military and economic purposes. The king of Judah hears about the plan and the bible says ‘he- and all the people shook like trees in the wind’- yes it felt like Rumsfeld was coming with a shock and awe campaign. Then in the midst of this fear- God tells Isaiah the prophet ‘go to the king and speak with him’. Isaiah gives him a prophetic word to not fear these 2 nations- their plans will not succeed. Then Isaiah tells the king ‘ask God for a sign- in heaven or earth’ and Ahaz says no, he will not test God. Isaiah then prophesies the above verse about Jesus. It just seems so strange for this verse, about Jesus- the Prince of Peace- to come in the middle of a military setting like this. The other day I saw some video of our troops in Iraq/Afghanistan- it was video leaked by the Wikileaks organization. They showed a few instances of our pilots in attack helicopters chasing down suspected insurgents in vehicles. You see the video of the chase, and the men in the vehicle getting out of the car and holding their hands up to surrender. The pilot radios back to his commander that they are surrendering- the commander tells them they are not able to take prisoners during the helicopter attack [obviously it would be difficult- you would have to land- slow down the entire operation for a few hours, and then go back to base camp and unload them- yes- it would be very inconvenient]. So the commander tells the pilot ‘we can’t take them’ the pilot doesn’t know what to do. The commander says ‘they are still targets’ after about 3 seconds of waiting- the pilot realizes the commander is saying ‘shoot them- with their hands up’ they do. Now, do I demonize our brave pilots for this- No. What about the commander- not really- though he bares more responsibility for the call- it was later shown that we do indeed take prisoners with helicopters. But I ‘blame’ the political miscalculations that were made years ago that allowed these men to kill these surrendering forces. They also showed video of a chopper targeting a building- as they unload the payload and destroy the building, you see a civilian walking right in front of the building- unaware of the impending attack. He’s blown away. Later- when the investigative journalists found the report for that attack- there was no mentionof the civilian death. Just last week we pulled our station chief out of Pakistan- he’s the head C.I.A. guy running the drone operation from the country. In essence he’s in charge of the ‘remote control’ planes that bomb certain targets. Many innocent civilians have been killed thru these attacks. Mothers and fathers have sued the U.S. govt. over the deaths of their relatives and children. They showed protesters in the streets calling for justice for their loved ones. The Pakistanis finally realized the station chief is the person running the show and they ran him out of the country. How would you feel if someone was conducting a remote control war on your block and was accidently killing your son or daughter? King Ahazwas in the middle of the thicket- worrying about the next military move to be made against him- God sent a prophet to him in the midst of the action- he prophesied of one to come some 700 years later. A sign if you will- a virgin will conceive a child and this child will speak truth to power. He will stand before the governor of Rome [Pilate] and give no defense. Pilate will say ‘don’t you realize I have the power to take your life- my status and class have allowed me to rise in the political ranks to hold a position where I make the decision if you live or die’ Jesus responds ‘you have no power over me- accept what God permits- those who delivered me to you- they will have more to answer for’. It was the political posturing of the Jewish leaders- those who manipulated the system to get what they wanted politicaly- those were the ones who were to bare the greater blame. May Immanuel- may ‘God be with us’ all in this travesty.

 

[1559] RATIONALISTS- EMPIRICISTS [Western intellectual tradition] – Okay- for those of you who are following my sporadic teaching on modernity [philosophical period between the 17th 20th centuries] let me overview a little of what we have covered so far. We discussed the Christian thinker- Rene Descartes’- and how in the 17th century he challenged the faculty at the university of Paris [the leading university of the day] to argue for the reasonableness of Christianity thru rational means- he said we can prove the existence of God without having to appeal to church tradition or the bible. The Empiricists [those who challenged the ‘rationalists’] argued that all knowledge comes to us from the senses- so we can never prove God’s existence from reasonable/natural means. In fact they argued that religion in itself is irrational and any attempts to make it rational/reasonable were futile. David Hume and Denis Diderot [one of the first openly professed atheists of the time] would argue from this position. Then in the late 18th century the very influential German thinker- Immanuel Kant- would respond to Hume’s pure skeptical Empiricism and ‘awake out of his dogmatic slumber’ [a term he himself used to describe his reaction to reading Hume] and challenge the skeptics. Kant did accept the Empiricist’sidea that we can’t ‘prove God’ by rational means- thru knowledge obtained thru the 5 senses- yet he taught that it was perfectly ‘reasonable’ to come to the conclusion that God exists. Just because you can’t prove God like Descartes’ said [according to Kant- I personallybelieveDescartes’ was right] it is still rational to ‘purport’ the necessity of God- in essence we ‘need God’ and natural religion for man to function in society- and it is logical to conclude that there must be an initialcause to all creation-even though we can’t discover him thru natural means. Okay- just a brief overview of what we already covered. I guess at this point I better go ahead and start a separate study under the title ‘The Western Intellectual Tradition’ [on the blog]. Why should Christians [especially preachers/pastors] even be concerned with stuff like this? While I agree it is not necessary for all Christians to study all subjects about all things- yet these historical/cultural movements play a major role in the debate going on today between believers and those who reject God. Just like in the scientific field- if Christians simply give up the fight- that is if we come to the table of ideas- trying to engage society in a coherent way- then we need to have some ability to argue intelligently for our position. To have even a ‘surface’ understanding of some of these cultural movements that have shaped the way we think and know is important when we get into debates with unbelievers who have appealed to the skeptics [Hume] to argue against the existence of God.

 

[1560] BUT THOU BETHLEHEM, THOUGH THOU BE LITTLE AMONG THE THOUSANDS OF JUDAH-  YET OUT OF THEE SHALL HE COME FORTH UNTO ME THAT IS TO BE RULER IN ISRAEL. Micah 5:2. In the gospel of Luke we read the story of Jesus being born in a real place- at a real time. Chapter 2 says that Caesar put out a decree that ‘all the world should be taxed’ that is they did a kind of census where you had to go to your native town and register. It just so happned that Mary, Jesus mother, was living in Nazareth [Galilee] at the time and Joseph- Jesus’ step dad- was from the lineage of Judah [KingDavid’s tribe]. So at this very inconvenient time- at the hour of child birth- they make the trek to Bethlehem of Judea- just in time for the census- and for the baby! Hundreds of years before this event there was this obscure Jewish prophet named Micah- he blurted out one day ‘out of you Bethlehem- the least of all places- shall one come forth- a great ruler of all men’ [my paraphrase]. The Jewish nation was waiting for centuries for this ‘sent one’ this messiah who would come to them in the midst of their oppression- and he would fulfill the promise that God made to father Abraham millennia before ‘we will serve him without fear and in holiness all the days of our lives’. As a matter of fact- jump back to Luke chapter 1 and you can read this promise being uttered from the lips of John the Baptist’s father when he praises God over the pregnancy of his wife Elisabeth- you see John the Baptist was also spoken about centuries before his birth- he would come on the scene as a forerunner- a precursor to the messiah. Yes, John’s father had reason to rejoice. And when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary- he told how that she was chosen for this great task- possibly the greatest task that any human was ever given- she would give birth to this promised messiah. She asks the angel ‘how can this be- I know not a man’ he tells her the Holy Spirit will come upon her and she will conceive a child from God- none before could claim the title ‘the only begotten of God’. Read Mary’s prayer in chapter 1- it too is a cry for social justice ‘the high and mighty will be brought low- the poor will be lifted up’ we call her prayer ‘The Magnificat’. Both Zacharias and Mary spoke/prophesied of social justice- that thru these seemingly strange miracles- God put in place a plan that would bring justice to all those who were being oppressed. So the day came for Mary to bear the child- but he was prophesied to be born in Bethlehem- so God preordained that the great Caesar Augustus would make a decree that ‘all the world would be taxed’. Caesar came from the beginning line of Rome’s great Caesars. Octavian- Rome’s first- would be a devastating military leader who would strike fear into the hearts of Rome’s enemies- the kingdom [Roman Empire] would take her initial form under his rule. Of course most of us our familiar with Julius Caesar- he’s made it into the Hollywood hall of fame- and Augustus- he would be the third in a line of 12 Caesars who would rule Rome. He ruled at a time when Rome was the center of the world- all roads truly did lead to Rome- the great eternal city. Rome had her religious adherents- Rome practiced a type of pluralism- when they conquered an enemy- they would allow the people to continue to have some form of self rule- believe in whatever religion suits you- but you were still under Roman rule. The Pantheon [a sort of pedestal for the various god’s of the day] represented this religious openness of Rome. Yet the Jews had a different type of belief- they held to what we describe as Monotheism- a belief that there was only one true God. Her prophets spoke the words ‘hear O Israel the Lord our God is one’ and they held to their peculiar belief while Rome overlooked it. In the midst of all these developments, Caesar makes the decree ‘everyone go back to your towns for the census’ and Mary and Joseph hit the road. Sure enough the time came for her to deliver the child- he was born in a stable- laid in a manger and the world would receive her king. 2Thousand years have passed- where are the great Caesars? Have you ever even heard of the name Octavian before today? Yet all over the world- in every nation- on the  radio- over the internet- being shouted from the speakers at the mall- yes, all over the world we sing that Jesus Christ is king- the one born in Bethlehem of Judea- the one for whom the whole world was a stage- even the mighty Caesars of the day bowed the knee unto this eternal purpose of God- they would be puppets in the hand of God- used of God to make decrees that would fulfill the obscure prophecy of some Jewish prophet named Micah-  yes- the Virgin had it right ‘God brought down the mighty- used them for his purposes- and exalted those who were struggling’. Rejoice- for in this day- 2 thousand years ago- was born a great ruler- a ruler of all men- his hometown is now famous becauseof this birth.

 

[1561] PIETISM/ROMANTICISM- As we already covered, the Enlightenment thinkers struggled with the idea that religion and reason/rationalism can go together. The pure Empiricists [David Hume] would reject the idea that religion could be rational- Descartes claimed it could- and Kant drew a middle line; he taught that we cannot know God thru the sense realm, but it was rational to ‘Postulate’ the idea of God [John Locke said reason can accept Revelation- Divine truths that have no Empirical evidence to back them up- Kant simply taught that it was rational for the mind to accept the idea that a first cause must exist, even if we can’t ‘prove’ him thru sense evidence]. Okay- as you can see much of Enlightenment thinking was infused with religion, reason, rationality- etc. Did all thinkers ‘think’ that these ways of approaching religion and reason were profitable? No- many thinkers/philosophers saw too much ‘head knowledge’ in the whole endeavor to make faith reasonable. Many religious leaders rejected the over emphasis on rational religion. Romanticism was a cultural/religious movement that primarily affected the Arts and Literature- but also had strains of religious thinking within it. The Romantics said we do and should experience life and God thru a real-felt type of living. There is much more to life than the rational proofs of things- in fact they felt the very essence of life was about experiencing the beauty of things thru the Arts and the creativity of man- some felt that God himself was revealing who he was thru the artistic creativity of man- the great Christian pieces of music [Bach- etc.] were not these beautiful works of music that transcended the ‘rationality’ of man and caused him to experience the beauty of God/religion thru this form of Art? The same for great literature. Pietism had her roots in the early modern period- and in the 19th century also pushed back against the sterile rationality of the Enlightenmentthinkers. Pietism- much like Romanticism- said there was much more to religion than simply knowledge- Pietism challenged the ‘dead faith’ of Orthodoxy and focused on the religious experience of Regeneration- they spent much time answering the question ‘how do we know we are saved’. Romanticism had strains of religious thinkers within her- Pietism was mainly focused on the religious question. Pietism had a major impact on 19-20thcentury Protestant Christianity- and most Evangelicals today can trace their roots to Pietism’s influence on religious thought. In the 18th century revivals that took place in the American colonies- men like Jonathan Edwards would play a major role in shaping the religious thought of early Protestantism in America. John Wesley- the great Methodist preacher- would also challenge the ‘dead religion’ of the Church of England and eventually launch the Methodist church [though Wesley originally never meant to separate from the Anglican Communion]. So the 19th century saw a strong reaction against the reason/rationalismof Enlightenment thinking- they felt like much true religious experience was indeed meant to be ‘an experience’ that  is something much more than simple knowledge. In Romanticism this challenge was primarily based in the cultural landscape of the day- in Pietism it was religious in nature. You had both Romantic atheists and Pietistic preachers agree on one thing- there is much more to life than the sterile rationality of the Enlightenment period.

 

[1562] POPE’S BOOK- FINAL COMMENTS- Let me try and make my last comments on the Pope’s book [almost done with it- a few pages left] which I have been reading on and off for about a month [I’m in the middle of a study on the Western intellectual tradition- making radio programs- and have been too scattered to do a complete book review]. Let me hit a few high points of the last few chapters that I felt were really insightful. Benedict gives an overview of a Rabbi’s perspective on Jesus [a book the Pope read from the Rabbi]. The Rabbi does not accept Jesus as the Messiah- but is respectful in his approach and the Pope shares the common reason why the Jewish nation rejected Jesus as their Messiah in the 1st century. Being faithful to a theme that runs throughout the book- Benedict shows how Jesus presented himself as the fulfillment of the prophecy about Moses/Jesus ‘that God would raise up a prophet like Moses’- Benedict shows that Jesus presented himself as the ‘New Moses’ and took the position of God himself in the statements he was making concerning his authority. In the Rabbi’s book- that the Pope is explaining- the rabbi covers the sayings of Jesus and comes to the conclusion that faithfulJews could not/ did not receiveJesus as their Messiah because his call to them was for Israel to accept his authority over and above what they knew to be true- their attachment to the Torah [the first 5 books of the bible- the law] and for Israel- as a nation- to accept Jesus- they would be saying ‘we accept a new Moses- and place his authority and words over and above the very foundation of our existence’. Now- these insights are deep- they are coming from a Jewish rabbi who has come to the conclusion that Jesus was presenting himself ‘as God’ to the nation of Israel- and Benedictsays he learned a lot from reading this perspective from the Rabbi. I just felt that this section of the book was real valuable. The Popegoes on to explain that Jesus was not repudiating the law- but fulfilling it- and in his explanation he also does a very good job [secretly!] at putting out a hand to the Protestant churches and attempting to reconcile the teachings of Paul on justification by faith [and Paul’s neglect of the law] and the biblical view of Jesus fulfilling the law. Benedict even shares very good insights into the apostolic calling of Peter- and the separate calling of the apostle Paul- his insights are excellent and you can see that he is really making an attempt to bridge the theological gap between Protestants and Catholics. Overall this book [Jesus of Nazareth] is the most Cross/Christ centered book I have read in the past 5 years! [We call this Christology- for those of you who want to learn the terms]. Over these last few years I have made an attempt to read some of the top Protestant writers of the day [Men like N.T. Wright- former Bishop of the church of Durham- England. Not talking about the top best sellers that are basically filled with pop psychology and void of any real learning] and I must confess that no other book has come close to the insights that the Pope has on the Cross and the necessity of believers to identify with Jesus in his death and resurrection- the Pope has done an excellent job atpresentingJesus and the Cross in their proper light. For all you theologians/preachers- the Pope also comes down on the conservative side of historical criticism. That is he certainly is familiar with the whole debate over Liberal/Conservative approaches to scripture [not talking politics here!] and he does another excellent job at dissecting the critics [Bultmann] and challenging many of the false assumptions that the higher critics made while rejecting the historical content of the gospels. The church went thru a century or so debating how reliably accurate the gospels were- many challenged their accuracy in a way that was not fair- that is they began holding the bible up to critical methods of historicity that no other documents were ever held to. These critics came up with methods- called historical criticism- that were quite frankly ‘loony’. And then they used this new criterion to say that the Historical Jesus was a different person than the Jesus from the bible. The Pope does a thoroughly scholarly ‘dissection’ of these faulty approaches- and quite frankly takes them apart in a ‘nice’ way. Yet Benedict also respects the historical studies of the church and handles very well the ‘contradictions’ that some find in the gospels. Many critics have shown how the various gospel writers [especially John’s gospel compared to the 3 others] do show differing accounts on certain aspects of Jesusand his life. To be honest- some of these differences can be problematic- many preachers/believers are generally not aware of some of these differences. The Pope knows them well- and dealswith them well. So he does not simply reject the ‘higher critics’ by saying they are wrong, but he shows his familiarity with the subject, and makes a scholarly attempt at representing the ‘conservative’ side of the argument; which basically says ‘the gospels contained in the new testament do very much present to us the historical Jesus’. Needless to say- I agree. So anyway as you can see the book is chock full of excellent insights that would benefit all Christians- I recommend everyone pick up a copy and read it.

 

[1563]  VICK- PAKISTAN AND THE GAMES WE PLAY- I really wanted to do a little more on Philosophy today-maybe I’ll get to it at the end. Let me talk about a few points of interest in the news right now.

 

First- the other day- right around Christmas- a Pakistani woman strapped a bomb around herself- had 2 grenades in her hands and walked up to a food distribution center in Pakistan and blew herself up- killing 45 people along with herself. The President spoke about it from his Hawaiian vacation spot and called the act cowardly. Now- what would cause a woman- possibly a mother- to do this? Cowardice? Desperation? A feeling of hopelessness and seeing our bombing in her streets as oppression? I obviously do not condone the act of the woman- but she was primarily looking for  a way to retaliate against our remote control planes [drones] dropping bombs all over the damn place- killing women and kids in the process. This whole thing is a mess.

 

On a lighter note- the President made anotherannouncement- a phone call from Hawaii- he called Tony Dungy and thanked him for giving Michael Vick a second chance with the Eagles. Michael is the quarterback who a couple of years back was caught doing the dog fighting thing [yes-  bad stuff]. He was convicted and did 18 months in jail. The eagles picked him up and he has had a great season and has managed to redeem himself as a really good player. So some in the media have criticized the president for congratulating Dungy for hiring Vick. I mustsay, while I disagree with the president on lots of stuff- I agree with him 100 % on this. At the time of the Michael Vick story I wrote in favor of Vick- I thought it was nuts that we have had players involved with killing people- guns falling out of their sweat pants at the clubs- all types of stuff- their chauffeurs running people over when they are in the car- and lots of times these players keep playing and never do jail time- yet Vick did almost 2 years- and some people still want him to be punished. I’m happy for Michael and I thank God he’s doing so well- he had a real risk of maybe not being able to play well, when you go to jail for a couple of years during your prime- that can ruin your career. I thank God he has made the most of his second chance- and I too praise Dungy- a fellow Christian- for giving Vick the second chance.

 

Okay- last but not least. As 2010 comes to a close- these last few weeks investors have pulled over 8 billion out of the U.S. bond market. They see the writing on the wall- that inflation is very likely to rearit’s ugly head and interest rates are going to go up. Why? How many of you remember a few weeks back when the Federal Reserve [our nation’s central bank] bought billions of dollars of U.S. treasuries? At the time you had global trading partners condemn us for trying to manipulate the global market- many voices from our country also said it was a risky move- it might cause inflation [when investors think interest rates will rise- they pull money from the bond market and put it into stocks- that’s also why the Dow is up]. They seem to have been right. The other day I was talking to my brother in law- he was asking me about some of this stuff. I explained to him that if you were playing Monopoly- and you and a few other players did real well- but mid way thru the game the banker simply put another million dollars into the game- how would that affect you? Basically ‘printing money’ like this- out of thin air- will devalue the money that’s already in the game- it will create inflation- everything else would become more expensive because the extra money devalued the original money that was on the board. So it looks like we did this- they’re predicting gas to go up to around 4 dollars a gallon- and those of you buying food- you already have seen the prices go up. So the nation basically borrowed money from ourselves [monetized our own debt] and it seems like the world won’t get fooled again.

 

[1564] DRUNK WITH THE BLOOD OF THE SAINTS- Wasn’t sure which way to go today? It’s strange that I have been thinking about covering the sad story of the Christians in Iraq; since the war they have been persecuted severely- a few months back one of their main churches was attacked, many have fled to the northern region of the country [Kurdish area] and many are seeking asylum in our country. Saddam Hussein protected the Christian church in Iraq- he was not considered to be a radical Muslim leader- like the Mullahs in Iran. So it’s sad to see the Christian church possibly being eliminated from this ancient country. The church in Iraq dates back to the 1stcentury- they still speak Aramaic [some of them] which was the actual language Jesus spoke. Anyway- the thing that seems strange is I felt like I should read Revelation chapter 17 this morning- and in the chapter the apostle John has this vision of Babylon [which is Iraq- geographically. In the chapter it’s a symbol of the Roman Empire] and as he sees Babylon he says ‘she is drunk with the blood of the saints’- yes indeed, much Christian blood has been spilt in Iraq.

 

Okay- the other day I was watching some show about a group of people picked from all over the world who were chosen to participate in a sort of round table discussion where each person would spend so many months just sharing in conversation with these other people. Some were from the U.S., others from Muslim/Arab countries- some were from Israel. The conversation they had was really revealing- they were not scholars, but they showed you the point of view from other perspectives. One of the questions they asked was what should happen to Iran? Should the U.S. intervene in their desire to obtain nuclear weapons? One of the Americans said we should- because they might be a danger to world peace [a common ideology among many Americans] then one of the students from a Muslim country said ‘then why do you not feel it is also wrong for the U.S. to have nuclear weapons’ and the American gave some type of simple answer. Why does the Muslim world have a problem with the U.S. seeming to play the role of arbiter- who can have- or not have a nuclear arsenal?

 

Are there any Muslim/Arab countries that have them today? What about other countries who are also unstable? Let’s see- Pakistan [the most unstable of the bunch right now] India [Pakistan’s rival, also a major reason why Pakistan will not eliminate the Taliban from the mountainous region of her nation- they see the Taliban as playing a major role in the future govt. of Afghanistan and they need some ties to the Taliban in order to balance out any power play between India and Afghanistan] Egypt, Israel, North Korea, Saudi Arabia- well as you can see there are a bunch of nations who already posses nuclear weapons- or are on the road to getting them. So when the average Muslim sees our attempt to intervene in who gets nukes, they see it as a hypocritical game.

 

What is the world history on nuclear attacks? How many countries have actually used nukes to attack/respond to other attacks? One. Who dropped the first Atomic bomb in the history of the world on another country? We did. Okay- let’s give this another shot. Who dropped the secondAtomic bomb? Okay- us again. One more time- who dropped number 3? No one. So let’s see this from the perspective of the Muslim student who questioned the reasoning of why the U.S. has nukes- but doesn’t want other nations to have them. The student was told that if other nations [Iran] has them- they might use them. Yet they see us as the only country that has ever actually used them. Look- I know why we used them- and many have questioned the morality of what we did in WW2. Were we just in dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? We killed around 200 thousand people- civilians- not military [not counting the many who died in the following years from radiation sickness]. One of the definitions of terrorism is the purposeful targeting of civilians for a political/military goal. To the Muslim world- we targeted these civilian cites [they were not collateral damage- the civilians were the target] for a political/military goal- to end the war. The point is we [Americans] have a tendency to view things from one perspective- we rarely see the end result of our actions. Who would have thought that our war in ancient Babylon [Iraq] would have contributed to one of the fulfillments of John’s prophecy ‘Babylon- you are drunk with the blood of the saints’.

 

[1565]  HITCHENS- BLOOMBERG AND ADAM- Okay- being I’m finishing up my last book, I made the mistake of going to half price books yesterday- mistake? Yes- I’m going thru some courses right now on philosophy and really shouldn’t be starting any new books right now- but heck, I couldn’t help myself. So as my custom goes- my wife dropped me off [they know better than to wait at the store- I usually take a few hours] and I begin the obsession. First I go thru all the shelves of the targeted category [theology, philosophy, etc.] and pluck out the books I think are relevant. Then when the process is complete I usually purchase 3-5 books from the collection [yes- I leave the rest on the shelf for the poor book worker to put back into the proper section]. So anyway as I was walking outside after the purchase I sat at one of the outside coffee areas where lots of people usually hang out [you know- the professors- one time there was a guitar playing hippiesinging about the war in Vietnam- in 2009!]. But this day it was surprisingly empty- only one homeless guy. As I sat to start Christopher Hitchens best seller ‘god is not great- how religion poisons everything’ I realized that the reason the spot was empty was because the homeless kid was sitting there at one of the tables- playing with one of those kids toys- you shake it back and forth and it claps- and he seemed to be talking to himself. To be honest- some of these guys are my best friends- I’ve spent thousands of man hours just hanging out with these brothers over the years. I really didn’t talk too much- trying to dissect Hitchens- then my wife drove up and beeped the horn. As I got up to leave- I saw the brother kinda look my way- seemed to be waiting to  see the scared- or violent type response they usually see- you know ‘stay the hell away from me’ type thing. I caught his eye and just gave him a friendly ‘hey brother- how you doing’ he was so glad to be seen as a human being. I walked over and figured I’d talk for a minute or 2. I didn’t realize it at first, but he was wearing headphones and listening to music- he wasn’t talking to himself after all. He told me he was listening to Floyd- I told him I too am a big classic rock fan- that while living in Jersey I missed their concert in 1979-80 ‘The Wall’. He knew the year- it was 1980. I just spent a few minutes having a friendly talk with him- maybe the first real communication he’s had all day- most of these brothers are nice guys- yet they often struggle with mental issues- he looked to be in his late 20’s, originally from some northern state- probably headed south for the winter. As my wife was waiting in the car- beeping the horn- probably thinking ‘Oh know- another one of his homeless friends’ [yes- I’ve met hundreds over the years- and they’ve all been to the house many times] I told my buddy I got to go- he asks ‘what’s your name’? John. Hi John- my name is Adam. Strange- the man who was made in God’s image- Jesus said ‘in as much as you helped one of the least- the down and out- you have helped me’.

 

Okay- once again I really needed to do a post or 2 on philosophy- before I get too ahead of  myself in the study; but let me make a few comments on Hitchens book [see- I told you I shouldn’t have hit the book store!] Okay- I’m gonna try and be nice to Hitchens- he is one of the famous atheist writers of the past few years- these guys are referred to as ‘the new atheists’ the group consists of some notable names- Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris- a few others. These guys kind of became popular in reviving some of the old arguments against religion and God- most modern readers are not aware that they are simply re-hashing the same old arguments that have been refuted in the past- and to be honest this bunch make a whole lotta errors in their thinking/arguments. Most well trained Christian apologists have thoroughly refuted them. But being Hitchens is dying [or died? I haven’t checked recently] of cancer- I’ll try and be nice [try!]. Okay- like some of the book reviews I read- Hitchens is crude and mean- and yes- at times ignorant of his glaring mistakes. He describes a nice old teacher he had as a youth- as a young boy growing up in England- she taught the schoolboys about nature and science- and yes- God. I thought he was being nice telling the story. Then he calls her ‘a pious old trout’. He refers to the sex abuse scandal that’s rocked the Catholic church- he calls it the ‘no child’s behind left’ scandal [a takeoff on the no child left behind policy]. So yes, this book- while containing some real good history- also sounds overly crude. Hitchens also appeals to mans great intellect and sophistication as being all we need for true morality- he says man does not need God, religion or the bible to be moral- after all we have the great works of literature! Sounds good- right? He then goes on and mentions the names of the great authors- he mentions Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy among others- and makes the argument ‘see- we have morality and truth contained within these books without needing religious truth’- geez- every well read person will tell you that these authors areknown for their books being inundated with religious morality- it’s no secret that these 2 authors are considered some of the greatest Christian/religious writers of their time. How Hitchens could appeal to the ethics contained in their writings and say ‘see- we don’t need religious ethics- we have these guys’. I mean these types of obvious flaws jump right out at you- to be honest I have only read the reviews from these famous atheists in the past- but most of the reviews have pointed stuff like this out- I just didn’t think these guys would be this ‘amateurish’ [geez- don’t want to call the guy an idiot- or an old trout- that wouldn’t be the Christian thing to do].  So anyway I guess I’ll hit a few high points of the book the next week or so.

 

Last- but not least. Have we had our own Greek crisis? Those of you who follow the news are aware that this last year the European Union has suffered from a severe debt crisis- many states that make up the union have struggled to try and cut costs and sure up their economies- Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland are still very much in trouble. So the other healthier economies in the union [Germany] have put pressure on the weaker ones to get their houses in order- they refer to this as ‘austerity’ taking measures to reign in the financial crisis. As a response to these cutbacks- like raising the retirement age and hiking college tuition- many citizens have taken to the streets in protest-  govt. workers going on strike and all. People have wondered if stuff like this could happen in the good old U.S. of A- it looks like it might just have! In sort of sneaky way. The blizzard that has wreaked havoc on the northeast these last few days has caused problems for N.Y. and N.J. [my old home turf]. The mayor of N.Y. -Michael Bloomberg- has come under fire for not getting the streets cleared in time. Word has gotten out that some of the street workers were told by their bosses ‘go slow in the clean up’ so to put pressure on the mayor to not eliminate their jobs- sort of like an under the cover strike. If this is true [we don’tknow for sure] then it would be our own workers rebellion against our austerity measures- while it’s not as bad as what Europe has gone thru- never the less it’s still bad.

 

[1566]  HITCHENS’- STOCK GUYS- AND THE GRAND DESIGN- Let me talk a bit on how we, as human beings, allow ourselves to believe things- things that we know are wrong- but it makes us feel better to believe them- so we do. First- those of you who are stock/financial advisers- this post is not meant to undermine your field, but to reveal how we at times make decisions that are not in our best interest. A few years ago, before I retired from the fire dept., we had some company come in and offer us a supplemental investment thing- it basically was a 401k type thing- not our main retirement [one of the few fields that still have traditional retirements]. At the time I was the only person who invested and stuck the money in a guaranteed instrument- it was a C.D. type thing that guaranteed around 4 %- tax free. Everyone else followed the stock advice and eventually lost around half of their money- this was right before the market crash. Only one other friend did well- hefollowed my advice and put his money in the fixed account. Now- are all stocks bad? No. But if I were to tell you that I have this investment for you- it might make 6-10 % [which was about what you could make at the time] or you might lose it all- O-one more thing- this investment also rides heavily on THE WORDSASINGLE MAN SPEAKS [Federal reserve chairman- Warren Buffet-  the treasury secretary- etc. etc.] That is this investment can lose millions/billions in a single day- if the market interprets the words of this man in a negative way [yes- this has happened more than once]. Or you could invest in another instrument [heck- even a 10 year treasury note was yielding around 3.5at the time!] that on average might make a few points less, but this investment is guaranteed to not go down and you will never lose your initial investment [theoretically]. Of course, any sane person would pick the safer- better investment. But the advisers never tell you this- because their jobs depend on you not knowing this! So as my buddies lost their small fortunes [and mine rose] I watched as they would ask me ‘gee John- you think I should pull out now- I lost 30 thousand’ and of course it was too late. Then as a year or 2 rolled by, the advisers kept saying ‘well- we invest for the long haul- we don’t ride these ups and downs’ so everyone felt good- like they might recoup their initial loss. Then after a few more years most of the financial guru’s [cnbc, Bloomberg, etc.] started saying ‘now it’s time for people to accept they will never again make back the money they lost- but because you’re so broke now- you can’t afford the safe investment- so YOU MUST be in the market now!’ and Walla- most people stayed in the market- took advice from the same people who ruined them. Okay- the point is we at times don’t want to accept the possibility that we were hoodwinked- we want to believe the lie!

 

So as I continue to read Chris Hitchens book- god is not great- he seems to sound like these stock advisers in the above scenario. Hitchens makes the case for atheism and says ‘look at the wonders of the human intellect- the Hubbell telescope- we can see billions of stars and galaxies- or look at Stephen Hawking’s theory on Black Holes- how he theorizes that we can pass a point called the Event Horizon and be in a place where both the future and the past collide’ [this is simply a theory by the way- we don’t know this as fact]. And then Hitchens compares these great discoveries of man with the bible ‘and look what the bible gives us- a burning bush!’ He basically is glorying in the intellect of man [which is Hitchens god, he glories in his own intellect much- and yet this same ‘intellect’ makes glaring mistakes in knowledge, logic and the basic facts of the subject he is covering- if yourgonna glory in anyone’s intellect- at least find one that makes sense!]. Okay- where’s the flaw in his logic? All Christian apologists have shown-over and over again- that the heavens, galaxies, black holes- and any other phenomena like this- are proofs of the greatness and majesty of God. There are actual bible verses that say this ‘the heavens declare the glory of God- the firmament shows his handiwork’ [Psalms] ‘God has revealed himself to us thru the creation he has made’ Romans chapter 1. I mean no Christian appeals to the burning bush story as a sign of the majesty of God. Everything Hubbelldiscovered, or Hawking found out- was simply AN OBSERVATION of a grand design [the name of Hawking’s latest book]. For Hitchens to appeal to the greatness of creation- and then use this greatness as an argument that God does not exist- well that’s like listening to the stock adviser say ‘being you stuck with me this far- into poverty- might as well stay on for the rest of the ride’.

 

[1567] FRIEDRICH SCHLEIERMACHER [and Hitchens] – Okay, before I get too far behind in ourstudy of Modernity- let’s do another post. F.S. [the guy above- don’t want to keep writing the name] was one of the most influential thinkers/theologians to come at the turn of the 19th century. He too challenged the sterile rationality of Enlightenment thinkers- and tried to craft a way to look at religion that was unique. Instead of religion being this dry approach to the world and existence as mediated thru mans senses [natural religion- Kant, etc.] he said religion was actually meant to be this experience that man has as he interacts with the whole of creation- an ‘intuition- sense’ that is more than something we can dissect and put under the microscope of reason. F.S. was a sort of go between- he was both trained in academia- a true intellectual- and also a ‘man of the cloth’. He knew the arguments that some of the Romantics made against ‘dead religion’ and he challenged their rejection of religion and wrote the famous book ‘On religion- speeches to its cultured despisers’ in 1799. The book was targeted toward his fellow academics in the universities of Germany who scoffed at religion- he appealed to their sense of art and beauty as true Romantics- and made the case that true religion is ‘the sense and taste for the infinite’ that is religion can be an expression [above reason] that seeks to embrace this sense of the infinite, this ‘feeling’ in man that there is more to life than meets the eye- and you can be ‘cultured’ and religious at the same time.

 

Okay- actually this is a good spot to jump into more of my critique of Christopher Hitchens book ‘god is not great’. Hitchens fits in good with the ‘cultured despisers’ that F.S. was writingto. I have found some points of agreement with Hitchens; he sees the Catholic church’s stance on no condom use as dangerous- especially in places like Africa- because condoms can be an effective way to reduce the AIDS virus. As a Protestant, I am not against condom use/contraceptives- but the flaw in Hitchens argument is he presents the case in a way that says ‘see- if it weren’t for the church’s teaching on condoms- Africa would not be in this epidemic’. Point of fact- one of the major ways AIDS is spreading on the continent is thru the vocation of male prostitution and other promiscuous type lifestyles. Would Hitchens have us believe that as the male prostitutes are getting ready to ‘go to work’ that they look in the drawer- see the condom and say ‘geez- I would really like to use a condom- but my strict adherence to Catholic doctrine will not allow me to do it!’ The reality is the church’s teaching on condom use- if practiced in accordance with ALL THE OTHER TEACHINGS of the church- would not increase the spread of aids [the church teaches monogamous only relationships- these relationships are not contributing to the spread of the virus in Africa]. Hitchens also has an entire chapteron pig meat! Yes, I’ve heard Hitchens speak over the years- and for some reason he has this obsession with pig meat! Anyway he defends the poor pig- makes fun of the Jewish Kosher diet- and then proceeds to give his personal view on why pig meat became a ‘no- no’ to kosher Jews. He actually believes [for real!] that pigs taste and act so much like humans [their intelligence- and their screams when being slaughtered]that the Jews associated eating pig with eating humans [and Hitchens even describes the taste of pig meat tasting like human meat- no joke!] he believes this is the secret reason Jews don’t eat pigs. He also defends pig meat as being healthy. Okay- I’m not a pig meat aficionado- but being I am a student of the bible [including the Old Testament] I can assure you that the Jewish dietary laws of the Old Testament are in fact very healthy laws! For hundreds of years people did not know why pigs, shrimp, etc. were forbidden to be eaten by the Jewish people- and over time science has discovered that these meats were indeed unclean. The prohibition against certain sea food-later these types of fish were found out to be scavengers, they are the ‘trash eaters’ that keep the oceans clean- that’s why they are unhealthy. Pigs- Hitchens favorite meat- pig meat is not good for you [in general- I’m a very happy pig eater- on pizza- with eggs- out of a bag with spices on it- pork rinds] because the digestive tract of the pig is very short, what they eat ‘becomes’ part of their flesh/life without going thru a long digestive process- not like the cow who ‘chews the cud’ [multiple processes of digestion]. Basically pigs are in fact a ‘less healthy’ meat than other types of meat. All in all Hitchens- once again- is just misinformed about stuff- lots of stuff. Geez- I wrote this short critique from basic knowledge gained thru out my life- believe me I did not have to Google ‘is pig meat clean’. So once again we see the ‘brilliant mind’ of Hitchens at work. I’m reminded of an article I read a few years back- it was a column by Maureen Dowd [the liberal columnist]. She gave her conservative brothera free shot to use her column to blast liberals. He went at it- in pure tea party fashion. As he went down the list- hitting all the favorite sore spots- he got to a line where he spoke of his senator- obviously a liberal- he simply said ‘Sheldon Whitehouse- you sir- are an idiot’ and that  was that. As I continue to read Hitchens book- this  line comes to mind.

 

[1568] ALEXANDRIA- EGYPT. Last night I was watching the news coverage of the demonstators in the streets of Egypt- they were protesting the government’s response [or lack] to the bombing of the church in Alexandria, the second largest city in Egypt [around 4 million people live in the city]. As I watched the sad story- in my mind I recalled all the times I have run across Alexandria in my studies of history. The city was founded by Alexander the great in the 4th century b.c.e. It had the largest library of the ancient world and was Egypt’s capitol for around 900 years. When the Muslims took over in the 7th century Cairo became the new capitol [under another name at the time]. Alexandria was one of the great centers of Christian learning during the first few centuries of the 1st millennium of Christianity. I remember reading about the great church father Origen- he lived in the 3rd century and eventually would head up the school out of Alexandria- one of the first Christian schools of the day. The famous philosopher Plotinus also had a lot of influence in the city. It was sad to see the destruction on the news- so many years later. This morning I read Revelation chapter 13. The apostle John writes about the persecution of ‘the beast’ against the Christians- the apostle says he makes war against Gods people and overcomes them. We often neglect to see this aspect of scripture- I mean how many songs have you heard that say ‘the beast overcame us and killed us’. We like to sing stuff like ‘we overcome by the Blood of the Lamb’ [another verse from Revelation]. Yet the apostle foresees a time of persecution of the church that will include the deaths of manybelievers. Those who think the book of Revelation was written early [before a.d. 70] see Nero as the one who bares the mark of the beast- yes the popular 666 is in this chapter. Others who date the book later [around a.d. 90] see the emperor Domitian as the beast- either way John was speaking about a future ruler who would severely persecute the saints [and of course the most popular view today among evangelicals is the anti Christ is yet to come]. In verse 10 of the chapter John says those who kill with the sword, must die the same way- this is the patience of the saints. John is communicating to the 7 churches that he is writing to that they should not retaliate against their oppressors- they should patiently endure- knowing that the persecutors will eventually ‘hang themselves’ with their own rope. Of course the great empire of Rome would finally fall- and for those who see Nero as the 666 guy [my view] he eventually dies a shameful death as well [he killed himself].

 

As I watch the various responses from Muslims and Christians [and Jews] to these types of events- we all have a tendency to view things most favorably to our own particular viewpoint. While some Muslims are of course outraged over the church bombing- yet the Christian community is more enraged. When the recent peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down- many Christians in the west couldn’t care less- many of them view the entire conflict thru the lens of end time dispensationalism [an end time view that sees Gods plan being played out by the displacement of Palestinians from the land]. I grew up in New Jersey [yes- the state of the great governor Christie!J]. As a good old Italian boy- I had lots of ethnic friends- Germans, Dutch, Spanish- etc. Many of these families were immigrants to the U.S. whose families had a history of living in the country for a hundred years or more [some less]. Now- if I were to come to your neighborhood, and tell you ‘look, the governments of the world made a deal [league of nations- later called the U.N.] and you have to leave this area and another group is going to move in’ how what this make you feel? Put aside your view of the bible and how you see ‘Gods plan’ being carried out- I mean just as a human being- how would you feel? You would feel terrible- you would think ‘geez- my father and his father settled here a hundred years ago- I’m not an alien!’ Yet the Palestinians were living in their land for 2 thousand years! Okay- just see the other point of view. Some of the Palestinians are Christians [small %- 2-5]. How do you think they feel when they have been praying for justice- many lost their homes and family estates during the displacement- and then they see the parade of American Christians trod thru the land like their on some Holy Land adventure- taking the kids to Disney world type thing- and yet in the real world lives are being lost on both sides of the conflict.

 

Most American Christians who hold to these end time scenarios that play into the geopolitical situation on the ground- they don’t realize that many Jews- and even many in the Israeli govt. do not completely embrace their enthusiasm for Israel. The Israeli leaders also know that most of these scenarios see a bloody conflict that will take place in the Holy Land [does Armageddon ring a bell?] and that many Jews will be slain- only a small remnant will escape [does the number 144,000 ring another one?]. The Israeli security forces in the city of Jerusalem actually have a specific profile for a group/persons that they see as dangerous to the city. Do you know who these ‘dangerous persons’ are? They are the tourists that enter the city every so often- and they have this wild look in their eyes- they are there to await the return of Jesus and they believe that they will be a part of the end time army that will spill much blood and defeat the forces of the enemy- yes- these types are deemed dangerous to the Israeli’s.

 

Lets pray for the peace of all people- let’s do our best to reject all forms of violence as being totally unacceptable- whether it be the bombing of a church in Egypt- the destruction of the Buddhastatues by the Taliban inAfghanistan [they destroyed these ancient pieces of art when they rose to power in the early years]. Even the bombing of abortion clinics- or the shooting of doctors- we need to see what the apostle John saw- those who take up the sword must in this manner be killed. I think too many of us have signed our own death warrant.

 

[1569]  HITCHENS BOOK- Let me do some more on Hitchens [I’ve been critiquing his book- god is not great- he is an atheist]. Okay- read a few more pages and must admit I’ve written notes on the side of the page like ‘this man is an idiot’ of course I would never write that on the blog! Why do I say this? Let me just say Hitchens uses old- disproven arguments- that have been proven false years ago- yet he seems to have not done recent research before he wrote the book. I actually double checked the date the book was written- trying to give him the benefit of the doubt. If it was written in say the year 1995- then okay- some of the more recent scientific and historical discoveries might have not been available at the time- but the book was written in 2007 [I’m writing this critique in 1-2011] so he simply does not know his subject [trying to disprove the existence of God] well enough to be touted as a brilliant man [which many have said]. Mistakes- he uses the old argument from DNA- called ‘junk dna’ which says we have strings of DNA in us that serve no useful function. DNA is sort of a computer code within us that maps out the basic structures and life functions that we as humans need to exist. Over the years we found DNA that at the time seemed to have no purpose- thus the name ‘junk’. But recent research has shown us that yes- there are functions that this so called junk DNA plays- it’s not junk after all. Yet Hitchens appeals to this silly argument as proof that ‘see- this dna was leftover from evolution’. He also uses another faulty argument form the human tailbone- if you look at the human skeleton- the tailbone seems to look like- well a tail! So people over the years have said this is a vestigial body part [which means it was left over as we evolved- and that’s why it’s there- people have said this about the appendix, the lobe of the ear, and lots of other stuff- today we have found that all of these things that at one time seemed to be ‘leftover’ do indeed have a function]. So Hitchenspulls out the old tail bone rabbit from the hat. The tailbone serves as a balance mechanism for the human to walk upright- it also serves as a primary connecting structure for other parts of the human skeleton- basically we have known for quite some time that the tailbone is not ‘vestigial’- I guess Hitchens just threw out any old arguments he has picked up over the years and figured the reading public would never know- he figured wrong. More? Okay- he contradicts himself page after page. He actually uses one of the proofs against Darwinian evolution- to argue for Darwinian evolution! He is familiar with the ‘Cambrian explosion’ this piece of scientific evidence shows us that some 500 million years ago [the Cambrian era] there was an ‘explosion’ of new body structures that form the basic structures of life- and that these life forms did not evolve over millions of years- they just appeared at once! When science found this out years ago- it thru a monkey wrench into the whole idea of Darwinian evolution- it said things indeed did not evolve slowly over millions of years- but they showed up at once. This kind of scientific truth goes against evolution and actually backs up the biblical claim that things were created at a set period of time- in complete form. So the whole Cambrian explosion thing is evidence against evolution- To Hitchens he just talks about it- acknowledges that the explosion does indeed contradict Darwin’s view [the tree paradigm- that things evolved over time ‘like a tree’ you started with one common base and things all branched out- the Cambrian evidence disproves this theory of Darwin]. And after admitting that all this proof does not back up Darwin- he then says see- ‘this is proof for evolution’. I  don’t know if this man is out to lunch or what? And last but not least- he covers the fact that other civilizations have had myths about creation- the flood- and stuff like that. This argument [very old one- refuted years ago] basicallysays ‘see- because we have found these stories in other cultures- thatmeans the bible stories about creation are fake’ man- I don’t even want to do the whole thing right now- I’ll try and simply paste the stuff I wrote about this at the bottom [or if you go to the blog site you can find all these posts under the evolution section]. Basically this theory has also been refuted- the fact is that if you find other cultures with ‘creation- flood’ stories, this in no way means creation or a flood never happened- to the contrary- this would be proof that it did! Overall he contradicts himself when tying to refute the Christian argument from design [that is we see design in the universe- people- animals- this argument is called Teleology] and Hitchens says ‘look- we see faults in humans, animals, the cosmos’ animals eat one another- humans have bad design with the eye structure [another famous- and also refuted argument about the so called faulty design of the eye] and therefore there must not be a grand designer [God] because look at the flaws in the product. Geez- another stale argument that’s been around for ages. Basically the way we refute this is to say ‘so- if I told you the car in the driveway was designed and made by an intelligent being- Ford- and you show me that the design has flaws- okay, I will have to find a way to explain the flaw’ but then for you to say ‘see, because it has flaws- it CAME FROM NOTHING’! Geez- well yes- I would think you were an idiot! The explanation for the so called flaws [predatory animals- the suns future demise, etc.] is the reality that yes indeed- Christian teaching says God made man and creation sinless, and after the fall of man into rebellion- the earth and all of creation plunged into a state  called ‘the curse’ or in Hitchens eyes ‘bad design’. So all in all his arguments are old-outdated and easily refuted. Kinda starting to feel sorry for the man- thought he would have done a better job than this- believe me- if you are an atheist and are looking for arguments against the existence of God- historically others have made a much better case- I still think their arguments are wrong- but they have made a better case- Hitchens is the wrong man for this task.

 

[1570] NOTE- please pray for my daughter Becky this next week or so- she has a serious health issue that she is facing- thank you]

 

This past week we have been able to read more of the Wikileaks memos; what more have we found out? It was revealed that last year we put pressure on the president of Afghanistan to remove a corrupt official from his govt. The man- Ismail Khan- was a former warlord for the Mujahedeen, he heads up the water and energy department. It is estimated that he is stealing around 100 million a year- his total cash assets say he’s worth around 250 thousand- what a shame. When we put pressure on Karzai to get rid of the man, he said he was told by Hillary Clinton that he could stay- as long as would appoint better officials under him- our U.S. ambassador says he told the president [Karzai] that if he didn’t fire the man- we would stop giving them financial aid. When all was said and done, Karzai kept the man- basically saying ‘I don’t care what you do’- we are still giving them the aid.

 

In Iraq- the govt. finally cobbled together a unity coalition from the various ethnic/religious tribes and formed a ‘unified’ govt. One of those included [MuqtadarAlsadr- I’m guessing on the spelling?] was one of the chief warlords who used to be deemed a serious threat to our troops inthe region- he had his own militia and he killed our men- as we did his. I remember years ago during the height of military action we said we were going to kill the man and dismantle his little army. Now he’s part of the government. After he got in- the president of Iraq gave a major press statement- he said the 2011 date for the removal of all U.S. forces was non negotiable- even though our country was hinting about extending the deadline. I’m glad they want us out- the point is once again those in authority are not leaders who are embracing western democracy [except for the corruption!] nor do they view us as their friends- these are the countries our sons and daughters are spilling blood in.

 

Last but not least. In the province of Punjab [Islamabad, Pakistan] their progressive- pro western governor was assassinated by one of his security team. This governor was educated in the U.S. [Harvard?] and was considered one of the most moderate voices in the country. Why was he killed? He publicly criticized the death penalty verdict given to a Christian woman who broke the blasphemy law of Pakistan. This woman said something that was deemed offensive to Islam [?] and she was given the death penalty- by a government that is supposed to be our ally- who we pour billionsof dollars in aid every year- this same government whose intelligence agency is infiltrated with those who we are fighting- yes our boys and girls have shed much blood working hand in hand with this government.

 

The other day the Pope gave an address after the recent bombings of Christians in Egypt and Iraq. He said there were 2main threats in the world today; religious extremism and secularism. Secularism is the belief that religion and morality should be a private matter- that nations and governments should be totally free from the influence of religion and those who wish to practice it should practice it in private. The other threat- radicalism- is the belief that religion and those who embrace itstenets should try and impose their views on others by force. The Pope saw both of these extremes as being dangerous. As I’m reading thru the book by Christopher Hitchens [god is not great]those of you who have been reading my posts see that I am very critical of the man- showing his flaws in logic- the obvious mistakes he is making in his quest to ‘secularize’ religion. Yet at the same time I must admit I agree 100 % with his argument against radical religion- the ‘fundamentalism’ spoken of by the Pope [not talking ‘fundamentalism’ as defined as the bible churches we see spread throughout the Bible belt].

 

The main reason we are in Iraq and Afghanistan is to repel Al-Qaida from territories where they might plan attacks against the U.S. [of course the other ‘main reason’ we are in Iraq is because of false intelligence that said Iraq was amassing W.M.D.’s] The terrorists who flew the planes into the towers on 9-11 were people who have been influenced by radical Islam- not all Muslims hold to these views- but the majority of terrorist networks in the world today do. In our attempt to ‘rid the world’ of this danger- we have embarked on a worldwide agenda that has cost the lives of many innocent women, children- as well as our soldiers and even soldiers who joined the Taliban or Iraqi forces simply as a means to put bread on the table- many Taliban fighters are in it for the job! After all these years of trying to deal with the threat of radical fundamentalism thru the means of force- where has it got us? The poor [deceived] religious fanatic who took the life of his governor in Pakistan- he killed him because the governor spoke out in defense of a Christian woman who was given the death penalty [by stoning!] because she insulted Islam. My friends- this is a war that cannot be won with bombs and guns- we cannot rid the world of the threat from ‘fundamentalism’ by means of violence. The sooner we figure this out- the better off we will all be.

 

[1571] DOOMSDAY IS HERE! Okay- they say when you make a post you should try and start with something that will catch people’s interest. One time I was gonna begin one with ‘SEX CULT’ and then say ‘hey- did I ever tell you guys the new name of my ministry’? But then I thought someone may be a first time visitor to the site- and last! [I did a study on a movement called ‘the children of God’ and read a few books on it years ago. Then about 5 years ago they made it back into the headlines- one of the kids who was brought up in the cult- Ricky Rodriguez- killed one of the leaders and made a confession video and took his own life. The story is very sad. Every now and then I see a documentary on the group- when I firststudied them they were not that popular in the media- then later it became much more exposed. I have the post on them under a section called ‘cults’ I think it’s in the 8-2010 posts? ] So anyway that’s where I’m at today.

 

This past week the news has been showing the strange bird deaths that have taken place around the country- to be honest it is a little eerie. Then yesterday I ploppeddown on the couch to feed my news addiction [yes- a true addict. I have the remote set for my own favorite channels- about 10 news channels. Every now and then I’ll hear my wife or kids in the living room trying to find their channel- I’ll here ‘geez- dad’s got the thing on his news channels again!’] So I figured I would escape the world and catch some news- you know we all have tough stuff we are dealing with- some people eat chocolate to escape- others watch soap operas- I escape in the world of news. So as I turn on the set sure enough Wolf Blitzer is reporting another ‘breaking story’ of a massive fish/crab kill off the beaches of some country. Now I already knew about the birds dying- and I earlier read a story in the news paper that a bunch of Manatees died off the coast of Florida- and now Blitzer is doing a ‘collage’ of all the events- with the heading IS DOOMSDAY HERE?

 

So of course we all would like the answer- as soon as possible if you don’t mind- you knowI might change my plans for the day if it is here. Then Blitzer says ‘we’ll let you know at the top of the hour’ What! I felt like my wife’s friends son- he is a real nice kid, growing up with his mom in a single parent home- kind of a hardluck story. Chris has been by the house lots over the years- he struggles with ADD and his mom has had her tough times too. I kid Chris a lot- he’s around 15 now. One day my wife tells me that Chris was feeling sick- so his mom [Sunshine] gave him some medicine from the cabinet- and then she realized it was the wrong stuff. She panicked- running around calling the poison control center and all- she tells my wife the next day [he is fine by the way] that it was kinda funny- as she was running around trying to find the number- telling Chris she gave him the wrong stuff- she says the poor kid went and laid down on the couch- reading his bible for the first time in years!

 

So you see- if doomsday is here- I would appreciate it if you could kinda give me a heads up. Then I flipped the channel to Beck- I figured he surely will be telling the world some type of global conspiracy behind the thing- to my surprise he was covering it- in a responsible way! Yes- he said he googled ‘bird deaths’ and found that these events are not that out of the ordinary. I was surprised to see Beck being more responsible than Blitzer. So as I waited for CNN to finally cover it- they showed the events and really didn’t say whether or not doomsday is here.

 

Okay- I don’t want to make too much light of the subject- the bible does speak about an ‘end of the world’ but we should not jump to conclusions too fast. In the gospel of MatthewJesus does say ‘like it was in the days of Noah- so shall it be in the days of the coming of the Son of Man’ [Jesus return] and Jesus himself goes on to say that in Noah’s day they were eating and drinking and marrying right up until the day that Noah entered the ark and the flood came and took them all away. Jesus says many people will be caught by surprise. The apostle Peter says that people will scoff at the idea of the second coming of Christ- they will say stuff like ‘geez- we have been hearing this for years- it’s never gonna happen’. So we as believers want to be aware of the reality that yes- someday there will be a wrapping up of the ‘present order’ and a ‘new heavens and earth’ will appear.

 

It’s a little too much for me to cover right now- but a lot of the language we find in the New testament about ‘end of the world’ in the original Greek language means ‘end of the present age’. It is not necessarily a biblical belief to see the world exploding in one big bang- but more of a future hope that someday [preterists believe that day has occurred with the coming of Jesus and the establishing of the ‘new age’ of the new covenant] God will ‘wipe away all tears from our eyes’ [Revelation 21] and a new age/world will appear. Yes- it is true that there will also be a future judgment- but the main point is the Christian belief of ‘the end of the world’ does not simply point to some type of destruction of the planet.

 

So where are we at right now? Come back tomorrow and I’ll finish the post. Okay- won’t pull a Blitzer. Basically I think we should always live with the possibility of ‘meeting God’ at any moment- whether it’s in death or some outward thing- we should try by Gods grace to live unselfish lives- not always consumed with our own welfare- but to put others before ourselves. We should use situations like the ‘bird deaths’ to talk about what the bible says- and what Christiansbelieve- and at the same time not overreact to things like this [like some Christians did during the Y2K event]. And it also does no harm- if by chance you ingest the wrong medicine- go ahead- grab a bible and start reading- it won’t kill you.

 

[1572] HEGEL[modernity study cont.] Hegel is considered to be one of the most influential thinkers of the modern era [along with Kant]. Hegel’s view of God and religion laid the groundwork [with Kant and a few others] for liberal theology. Hegel taught an idea about God that said in the beginning God was this ‘undifferentiated spirit’ [impersonal] who ‘separated’ himself from himself- in this Divine separating part of him became cosmos, world, man- in the history and development of man, man comes to self consciousness about himself- about God- and in this process- God himself discovers who he is too! Yikes! Obviously Hegel’s view did not sit well with historic Christianity.

 

Hegel was an idealist [like Plato]. If you remember earlier in this study I taught how idealism is the belief that ultimate reality exists in ideas or forms- the reality of horse or chair is first an idea/invisible form- then what we see is sort of a second creation. Many of the early Greek philosophers held to this view [Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, etc.]. Hegel believed that because ‘God’ comes to this self realization of who he is thru the development of human society thru time- therefore he saw the Divine in human community [government]- primarily expressed thru Protestant forms of Christianity- he divinized the state in a way.

 

When we study the various thinkers of the modern period [1700’s-2000] it is hard to separate their strong views of religion and God from their thought- but many modern teachers of philosophy have a tendency to skip over the religious ideas of these men- often in the university setting these thinkers are just looked at as philosophers- and their obvious religious thought is kind of glanced over as ‘a symptom of the times they lived in’. This is a big mistake in my view- while I obviously do not embrace Hegel’s ideas about God [he basically taught a form of Pantheism- a religious belief that says God is the creation- not just the creator] yet it is important to see the role Hegel will play in the influence of the higher critics that arose out of the German universities of the 19th century. Many of the modern religious thinkers were influenced heavily by Hegel [Rudolph Bultman] and his ideas- in various forms- will continue to inform religious thought right up until the 20-21st centuries.

 

I guess a good example to sum up Hegel would be the program I was watching last night on Link T.V. It was a discussion amongst various religious groups about God and how we should strive to know and understand and respect the different beliefs people have [I agree]. Yet as the various people shared their views- it was easy to see the eastern beliefs and how much theydiffered from traditional Christianity. At one point they gave a quote from a Catholic priest [Those of you who know me realize I consider fellow Catholics Christians and am a student of Catholic as well as ProtestantChristianity]. He said there were 3 basic realities; 1- the other [God] 2- we are the other [we are one with the divine] 3- there is no other [double yikes!!]. Obviously this well meaning priest is not in good standing with the teachings of his own church!

 

I don’t share this to be mean- I think in today’sworldit is vital for Christians to engage in interfaith discussions- to respect other peoples beliefs and to work with other religions [Islam, Judaism, Hindu- etc.] but we don’t want to confuse people about what the historic Christian faith teaches about God. In Christian teaching [Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox] God is an eternal personal being- not just some ‘undifferentiated spirit’. God is not ‘us’. He made us, and the creation- he reveals himself to man thru creation- his Spirit does indwell those who believe in him and the redemption of Jesus Christ and his Cross- and God knew who he was- long before we knew who we were!

 

So some of the deep thinkers have espoused ideas that do not sit well with Christiantradition- never the less it’s good to study and be familiar with the various thinkers of the modern era and to be able to refute [in a nice way!] their errors and share with them the truth of the gospel. As I study these various thinkers-I’m reminded of a term I learned when first moving to Texas from N.J.  As a Yankee living in the south- I was often told that here in the south we don’t ‘fix it if it aint broken’. And over the years I have learned that there is much truth to this statement- thru trial and error.

 

One time I bought this 1976 datsun 280 ZX. It was a used car- paid around a thousand for it. I liked the car- ran fast and all. So one day I get this bright idea [yes-I am going to fix something that ‘aint broke’] and decide to install a backup oil pressure gauge- you know just in case the original one goes out. So I put the new gauge in [cluster gauge- shows 3 different readings] and every now and then I noticed the gauge would show no pressure! The first time this happened I panicked and pulled over and realized that the pressure was okay- it was the design of the gauge- the tube kept falling off the oil sending unit [the thing the gauge hooks up to]. So one day while driving home- sure enough the gauge reads zero pressure- O well I will fix it when I get home. I never ‘got home’. The tube did fall off- but to my surprise all the oil managed to shoot out of the small tube during the ride- yes- I blew my engine! So as I read Hegel and some of the other thinkers in this study- and some of the theories they came up with- I appreciate their efforts to inform modern thinkers- to give themselves over to the field of philosophy- but in the end I get the sense that they are trying to fix something that ‘aint broke’.

 

[1573] Let me just give you guys a heads up today. These past few months or so I have been doing a lot of posts on Philosophy. Sometimes I do a bunch of history- or science- or another subject. For those of you who come to the site strictly for bible teaching- yes- there are times where I do an entire book of the bible- or cover a series on a biblical truth [Justification by faith- etc.]. On the blog [corpuschristioutreachministries]- if you go to the February 2010 posts- you can find all these studies. But for today let me just do a brief overview of where we are at- by the way I also wanted to mention the referendum in Sudan [Africa] today- today southern Sudan will vote on whether or not they want to be independent from the North[I’m almost positive they will vote for independence]. Sudan has been in a civil war for over 20 years, around 2 million people have been killed [massacred] in the process. The ruling north is predominantly Muslim- the South Christian [another long story having to do with independence from Britain in the early days]. So why should we pray for Sudan today and in the next few weeks? Because if the South does break away- many Christians who live in the North will be in danger of severe persecution as retaliation for the South’s vote- so let’s pray today [1-9-2011] and in the next few weeks for Sudan. Okay- the brief overview I want to do is to simply remind all our readers that the main truth- or thing we all need to re-focus on is the reality that the Christian message is one of reconciliation- that God, thru Christ- has ‘brought back’ the world to himself as a Divine gift. In essence the Christian message is not ‘turn your life around- be good- and then go to church and you will be saved’. Now- being good- going to church- all of these things are good to do- but many times people get the cart before the horse and the world never really understands the message of the Cross. When the bible says ‘repent and believe the gospel’ it is not saying ‘stop sinning and believe the gospel’ in the sense that your telling a drug addict ‘once you quit the habit then God will accept you’ the word repent in the new Testament does of course carry with it the idea of ‘turn away from sin’ but it mainly means ‘change the way you think’ or basically it means ‘are youfinally tired of what you’ve been doing? Then let’s try the God thing’ [of course that’s my spin on it]. In essence the message of Jesus and the church is ‘God forgives and acceptspeople, not based on how good they are- but on the fact that his Son died for you and rose again’. In the book of Romans the apostle Paul says ‘If God gave his son for us- how much more will he freely give us everything else’. People [Christian’s/ preachers] often make the message confusing- sort of like if you don’t get all the details just right- you aren’t ‘saved’. The fact is if God gave his son for us- paid such a high price to save man- then why would he also go thru all the trouble to make ‘getting saved’ so difficult- that most of mankind will miss out on it! The basic way we are saved is thru faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ- this is what the gospel [meaning good news] is according to the New testament [1stCorinthians 15]. If you read the gospel of John, the letter to the Romans- or the letter to the Galatians [all New Testament books found in the bible] you will read the story of how God chose to save men when they would simply believe in Jesus- yes- the gift of God is eternal life thru Jesus Christ. Now- as a student of theology and history- I certainly am familiar with all the many controversies surrounding the various churches and how they implement the sacraments- or baptism- or ‘the sinner’s prayer’ when encouraging people to accept Christ. The main point I want to make today is the reality that many times in the New Testament the bible speaks about those who believe in Jesus, that these are ‘the sons/daughters of God’ [John chapter 1]. If you just pick up the bible this next week or so and read thru the gospel of John- you will be surprised to see how many times Jesus himself connects simple belief in him with eternal life ‘for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life’ 3:16- ‘he that hears my words and believes on him that sent me has everlasting life’ 5:24-‘he that believes on me has everlasting life’ chapter 6- the last chapter of John says ‘many other things did Jesus do that are not written in this book [John’s gospel]but these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Son of God- and thru believing you might have life thru his name’. I want you to think differently today about ‘Christianity’ or ‘going to church’ or ‘God’. Over these last few months I have engaged in lots of arguments for the truth claims of Christianity- refuting the contemporary atheists- showing the historical proofs forChristianity. For many people they hear things thru out their lives- little bits of info that cause them to doubt certain aspects of the faith- and then they use these arguments- often easily disproved- as excuses to say ‘that whole Christian stuff is a bunch of bull’. So the apologetic arguments for the reality of God are intended to ‘un-do’ many of these excuses- but at the end of the day the message of eternal life is simple- it’s a free gift given to all who will simply believe. I was going to post one of the bible studies here at the end- but just go read one or 2 of the ones I just mentioned from the blog- or pick up a bible and read a chapter or 2 a day- Imean the book of Galatians is only 6 chapters, you could read it in a single sitting. Okay- that’s it for today- remember try and pray for the church in Sudan- that all will go well and there won’t be any violence because of the vote- and do alittle bible reading the next day or so.  God bless, John.

 

[1574] ARIZONA SHOOTING- Kind of wanted to cover a little more about yesterdays post- by the way I mentioned I had a few studies in the 2-2010 posts, the others are in the 4-2010 posts [Galatians, John]. Maybe I’ll just post one of them at the end. Of course 2 days ago we had the horrible shooting in Arizona- a congresswoman and others were shot- last time I checked she was still alive, and 6 were dead [I haven’t checked since last night]. First- of course we as a country should be outraged at this, the young man who committed the crime is obviously unstable- many in the media think they are being responsiblewhen they use this as a ‘conservative versus liberal’ agenda. The first report I read kept reminding the readers that Sarah Palin ‘targeted’ this woman during the campaign- the reporter kept stating how Palin even had crosshairs over her district. Now- I have written about this before- how I actuallywatched CNN do a whole show on the irresponsibility of using crosshairs [I agree]. The problem was they had a Democrat [Paul Begala] condemn the use of the crosshairs by Republicans- and they chose the co-host of the longest running show in the history of the world that every week had huge crosshairs on all the guests [The show was called CROSSFIRE]. The point is for the article to have made it sound like the political use of the word- target- was the cause, this is playing into the entire fear mongering that we all need to drop- every side! I also noticed the rage of those who spoke out against the killings- yes- we should all be very mad. Some said ‘you don’t understand- these people were good people’- our entire country stopped for a few days just to be enraged. Now- in no way am I saying this terrible event was ‘brought upon ourselves’ like God is punishing us for our sins [like Pat Robertson and Falwell said in their comments after 9-11] but listen- carefully. The other week I watched a CNN show on a foreign reporter who spent a few weeks behind the scenes with the Taliban- they showed you the local commander and how he was living with his 2 little cute kids in his worn out house. The boy and girl must have been around 5 or 6 years old- they sat on the reporters lap and posed for pictures [yes- I’m sure some of it was propaganda] – the little girl was so cute- wearing her little dress and all. At the end of the report they reported that these 2 precious kids were accidently killed when we hit the camp. Now- were these kids as innocent or as valuable as the innocent victims in Arizona? Did we stop the news for 2 days over this? For 2 minutes? Does the fact that this president has been responsible for more civilian deaths by drone planes than all otherpresidents combined bother you? Yes- we’ve only been using these remote control planes [to kill people] since Bush- but Obama has been responsible for more civilian deaths in 2 years than Bush killed in 8 [with the drones]. Do we- as a country even care? We seem to get outraged when the innocents are wearing our skin- but when they wear Arab/Muslim skin we don’t care. Once again- I am outraged too over the crime committed in Arizona- I too feel that the political tone in the country has gone way overboard- and in a sense when a nationinvolves itself in many deaths of innocent people- whatever the excuses- when we not only don’t stop- but actually have increased them under a president who swore he would end the entire debacle- then we do reap what we sow in a sense- we open the door for things like this. I  was outraged when I saw the deaths of innocent Muslims- and when our president was able to comment while vacationing in Hawaii with his 2 beautiful kids- I just wish we could see all these kids as beautiful- not just the ones who belong to us.

 

[1575] ARIZONA SHOOTING, PART 2- I really didn’t want to do a ‘part 2’ on this- but after I wrote yesterdays post I caught the news and this thing is really heating up. The first day the shooting happened I did not watch the 24 hour news cycle that covered it nonstop. I also skipped it the following day. Whenever a major event occurs [the minors trapped underground] I think these news events are important, but to do a 48-72 nonstop coverage of the event is not good. There are many important world events that take place- and when you pick a single one to cover nonstop- for a few days, then it distracts from the other very important events. Okay- the major problem I see right now is you have both sides of the political aisle blaming the other side for either causing the event to happen because of their rhetoric- or the conservatives blaming the Democrats for using this as a political tool. Who’s right? First- lets all agree that we should stop using language like ‘target’ or ‘take the opponent out’ in political speech- lets also be honest that both sides have used this language- and I don’t know of a single case where a politician has used the language to incite violence. Now- some are saying whether they meant to incite violence or not- they did. Others are saying it’s too soon to link cause with language; that we don’t yet know what set off the disturbed man who did this. On his site he had his favorite books listed- MeinKampf [Hitler wrote it] and the Communist Manifesto [Karl Marx]. While the Hitler book might define the man as a radical right winger- the Marx book would make you think he was a radical progressive- so we don’t know what set this man off. Number 2- Sarah Palin. First- personally I am not a fan of Sarah Palin- I don’tdislike her [or her family] but I think she just isn’t the type of person who is ready for high office. Second- the media [MSNBC] has done the woman wrong by opening the door to criticize her and her kids- some were minors at the time- and by involving her kids personal lives [Bristol] to become fodder for the comics and late night comedians who have actually made jokes about the girl getting ‘knocked up’ under the bleachers by A-Rod and stuff like that. I remember watching Keith Olberman one night [I like Keith by the way] and he often calls her an idiot- this night he had a reporter on the show- this reporter was in Alaska the week before and he was attempting to get a scoop on Palin- she refused to talk with him and wanted him to leave. The next day her kids came home- one was a minor at the time [9or 10?] and they told their mom that this same reporter ‘ran into them’ in town and was asking them questions- trying to get info. Now, these were Sarah’s daughters, they were in town and approached by this strange man- how would you feel- after you already told the man to leave you and your kids alone? What if something like this happened with the president’s kids? So Palin reports the guy- wants him to leave them alone. Olberman reports the story that Palin is a psycho who is so paranoid that she is harassing this innocent reporter- the reporter- in his mocking of Palin- says ‘this woman is a nut Keith- I was just in town the next day because I figured I already flew to Alaska and might as well go sightseeing’ he then says that the kids spotted him- they recognized him as one of the media reporters who covered Palin in the past [probably a lie]and that they came up to him to say hi. Keith accepted this version and went on to mock her. What’s the problem? This man did indeed cross a line- as an adult male- approaching young girls outside their home- after being warned not to bother the family. Thesegirls were not defended by the media- but mocked- that’s wrong- the media has lowered the level of responsibility in dealing with this family. When they [including a major news network] continually had the ex- boyfriend of Bristol on their shows, they allowed this kid to say whatever he wanted ‘did Sarah walk around and call her son a retard Levi?’ Are you kidding me? How many ex- boyfriends of Chelsea Clinton- Joe Biden’s daughter- or anyone else ever get this type of coverage? Yet they have dragged these kids into the spotlight in a way that is simply not done with anyone else. Now- why say all this? Many in the media are saying that Sarah Palin is responsible for the congresswoman’s shooting and the deaths of the people. Okay- now what do her kids do? Go to Skate Night with their friends? Are you kidding- the media is blaming her family for one of the worst mass murders we have seen in years. When the Democrat, Joe Manchin, recently did a TV ad- holding a rifle with a scope- pointed it at a target that was ‘Obama care’ and put a real bullet  thru the target- was he blamed for violence? Do you think this ad was worse than Palin putting a target on the districts that they were ‘targeting’ politically? Should we drag Joe Manchin’sdaughters into the spotlight- finding out all their secrets-making jokes about them having sex with A-Rod? The problem with this whole mess is both sides need to reject the games- drop the language that may incite people who are unstable- don’t just blame one side for using the language- both sides have. And pray for the congresswoman and the families of the victims as well. When we demonize the other side- make them look like enemies of the state- these things can effect unstable people- but if Palin and others have done this- don’t make it sound like they themselves are responsible for the deaths, or that they meant for this to happen- because it puts her whole family in danger- including her kids.

 

[1576] CHRIS MATTHEWS, ED SHULTZ AND THE HOMELESS- Spent the day yesterday on the streets with my homeless buddies- it was cold! I was on foot. Ran into Henry, one of the brothers who really knows his stuff. Henry is originally from Massachusetts and he always has great discussions about the bible- he’s sort of one of those undiscovered genius types- a ‘rain man’ type guy when it comes to the bible. We came back to the house for the afternoon- made a little lunch/dinner type thing. A few monthsback another one of my buddies, John David [I wrote about John a while back- he was strung out on cocaine for years- has been clean for a while] came by- he started a drug rehab- told me the location and showed me the story they ran on him in the news [it made it to CNN!] I was excited- the next day I wrote a 50 dollar check- stuck it in my wallet and figured the next time I run into him I’ll give it to him as a gift. Never ran into him since- so I gave the check to Henry- he will get withbrother Ray- a street preacher who is also struggling with finances right now- and they will split it. Henry would never be able to cash it by himself- or else I would have just given him the 50. I Heard Roger might have died in jail- about a year ago he threatened to kill a cop [he’s all talk- never would have done it] and they charged him with a terroristic threat- sent him away for a year. Roger was a good friend- hope he didn’t die. Around 4 o’clockHenry was heading out to go down the road to brother Rays place[lives a mile or 2 away] I gaveHenry a bunch of bible studies that some ministry sends me every month- I don’t have time to read them- hate to throw them away- so I save them for Henry, he loves them. The preacher is from New Jersey- a Messianic Jew- I sent him some stuff once and just said hi- he has been sending me the studies ever since. As Henry was walking out- he had the check- a little doggie bag I whipped up for him with some stuff- the studies and all- he told me ‘John- this has been the best day I have had in a long time’ I knew it wasn’t the check- or food- Henry sees me as one of his best friends- and he really gets into the fellowship time- I usually share some ‘scholarly’ stuff I’ve been reading- the trends going on in theology and all- he eats that stuff up- loves learning- but doesn’t always have up to date info on the recent developments in the field of theology- so he just likes learning.

 

Okay- though I hate to do this- let me make a few more political/news comments. After Henry left I caught the news for a few hours- Chris Matthews has chosen to use the deaths of the innocent victims in Arizona for political gain. He went on a rampage of saying because of this Sarah Palin needs to come out and apologize for using political targets to target Democratic districts- he said she will forever be associated with the deaths- that you will be able to GooglePalin and crosshairs and she will be marked for life with the deaths of these people- and he said she will be ‘ERASED’ [no lie] if she doesn’t apologize. This man is more dangerous than Glenn Beck- most people see Beck for what he is- Matthews is not seen as a ‘nut job’ it is very possible to take his words to mean he is calling for the assassination of Sarah Palin- so very sad. Then Ed Shultz [another guy I do like] did his show defending his segment ‘psycho talk’ I missed the beginning of the show- but you got the drift that some on the conservative side have shot back at the liberals and said ‘look- you lib’s use radical talk too’ so Ed was defending his segment- than- to my shock- he transitions to a segment called RAPI- FIRE [God- please help us all] and as he asks the 2 democratic guests their views on the irresponsibilityof Palin and the right using images of guns and crosshairs and targets- the 2 guests seem embarrassed that the name of this segment is called RAPID- FIRE with the words ‘rapid fire’ blazed in red and blinking on the bottom of the screen- I mean Shultz comes on MSNBC right after Matthews- who just called for Palin to be ‘ERASED’. I couldn’t believe the stupidity of these men- to put it bluntly. At this point it looks like the shooter was just a mentally disturbed young man who had no consistent political views- yes- in the beginning it seemed like he might have been a right wing nut job- a Tim McVeigh type personality- but the evidence just does not show that. Of course what he did is still horrendous- it just doesn’t seem to have been instigated by right wing ideology. It just seems hypocritical- of course the right wingers are going to show you all the examples of the left doing the same things that they are outraged over- so another ‘target’ was revealed- it was made by the Democrats- and it had exactly the same rifle/scope targets over the districts of Republicans- then they of course showed you the clips of Obama saying ‘when they bring a knife [political opponents] we bring a gun’ and I even caught this one my self- when the president made the end of the year deal with the republicans- the lame duck congress- he had to defend himself against the liberals who were mad- so he innocently says ‘You know- I didn’t agree with everything in the deal- but when HOSTAGE TAKERS are threatening to hurt the hostages- than you make the deal’ now- we all know the president did not mean to send a message to the real hostage takers of the world- telling them ‘yes- I will deal with you if you start killing off the hostages’ and I heard no conservative voice accuse him of this [someone might have- I did not hear anyone so far] – it would be irresponsible to take the political speech of the president [we’ll bring a gun- hostage takers- etc.] and use that as a political tool to shame the man- yet that’s exactly what some on the left are doing- I agree with those on the right and the left who are calling for a step down on the rhetoric- from both sides- but those who are publicly saying that the rhetoric from one side is what caused these peoples deaths- that’s being irresponsible to the max.

 

[1577] Okay- how bout this- before I get into politics I promise to do a teaching thing. The other day I wrote a short, simple [basic] post on the teaching in the New Testament aboutbelieving in Jesus, and on the promises in the bible that say ‘if you believe in Jesus, you have eternal life’. Now- for all you preachers/Christians who read the site, yes this is basic stuff- but for many Christians who are nominal church attendee’s, maybe they have grown up in a good Christian church- but never really got into reading the bible, or seriously studying the faith- for these Christians I want to cover some more of the basics. Okay- why is the doctrine of ‘believing in Jesus and being saved’ such an important thing? I mean don’t all Christians know this John? In a way yes- and in a way- no. That is the teaching is not just a simple ‘believe in God’ thing- it is one of the foundational teachings in the bible- and the apostle Paul was the New Testament apostle who shook up the first century religious community by brilliantly writing his ‘thesis’ on the subject. The apostle was a former teacher of the Jewish religion [Pharisee of the Pharisees- top scholar] and after he got knocked off his high horse [literally! Acts 9 ?] he came to this revelation of seeing how God all along had ‘a plan’ to redeem men [save them] by faith- and not by trying their ‘darndest’ [I get too many rebukes for cursing!] to keep the law and do good. This doctrine [justification by faith] is  the major theme of Paul in hisletter’s to the Romans [often considered the best scholarly work of the apostle]and theGalatians. Paul does a brilliant job at explaining the Old Testament stories of Abraham and the patriarchs- the well beloved Jewish king- David- and the promise of God to send the Messiah to the Jewish nation [and ultimately all nations] for their deliverance. Paul explains why God chose to save people by faith as opposed to trying to obey the law- he explains why God gave us the 10 commandments [to reveal to man that he is sinful] and he shows us that the reason faith is the mechanism for salvation- is because salvation is a free gift that was earned for us by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave. Faith- in itself does not save- it’s simply the mechanism that is the simplest way to get the gift of eternal life to people thru Jesus [Jesus is the actual person doing the saving!]. Thru the ages the church always had this doctrine contained within her bible- but like everything else- the bureaucracy eventually got in the way- and Christians lost the simple reality of the free gift. Now [okay- this is getting long- probably won’t do politics too- I know your sad about that J] during the 16th century [1500’s] we had what is commonly referred to as the Protestant Reformation- as a student of history I probably have studied this period more than any other- there were many church leaders leading up to the 16th century that voiced concerns over what they saw as abuses within the institutional church- many influential teachers and intellectuals who were gaining new influence thru the development of the university system that occurred alongside the rise of the nation states- these universities and their top scholars now had the ability to challenge the institutional church [in Rome] to a much greater degree than previous reformers. So without getting into all the technical reasons why the 16th century reformation took place [The initial challenge was the abuse of the priest, Tetzel, selling indulgences to raise money for the refurbishing of the church at Rome- yes a building fund project was the actual cause of the greatest church split in the history of the world!] what became the rallying cry of the reformation was the restoration of the classic doctrine of Justificationby Faith[and the reformers would add the words ‘alone’].The 3 Sola’s [alones] of the Reformation were -faith, scripture, and grace. But it is interesting to see that the main emphasis that eventually came from the Protestant Reformation was the restoration of the lost doctrine of justification by faith- or to put it simply- being saved by believing in Jesus- and not by trying to do your best to keep the 10 commandments. I believe it was possible for the church to have not split over the doctrine- there were obviously tempers flaring on both sides [Rome and her Papal representatives and Luther and those on his side] they freely referred to one another as ‘the anti Christ’ you know- not the best expression of Christian brotherly love- but I do believe it was possible for the historic Catholic church to have assimilated much of what Luther was saying back into official church doctrine- and as a student of the period, and having read the actual letters and writings that were written by both sides- I do believe the Catholic church had some good scriptural concerns that some might miss read what Luther was saying- and think that Christians could go out and kill- rape- and do whatever they felt like doing- because they were now saved ‘by faith’ and not by keeping the law. The apostle Paul actually dealt with this very accusation in the letters I mentioned above- and he too saw the danger in people misreading what he was saying. Okay- enough for now- I guess I’ll go ahead and post the study I did on the doctrine of Justification by Faith here at the end- for those of you on the various sites that don’t see it- it’s because some sites that I post on daily- they don’t have enough space for the whole post- so you will have to go to the blog and read it [corpuschristioutreachministries].   John

 

 

 

 

JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH SERIES-

 

(1443) NOW THE LORD HAD SAID UNTO ABRAM, GET THEE OUT OF THY COUNTRY AND FROM THY KINDRED AND FROM THY FATHERS HOUSE, UNTO A LAND THAT I WILL SHOW THEE. AND I WILL MAKE OF THEE A GREAT NATION AND I WILL BLESS THEE AND MAKE THY NAME GREAT AND YOU WILL BE A BLESSING- Gen 12:1-2. I think for the next few days I will try and cover some key verses in both the old and new testaments that deal with the doctrine of justification by faith. I covered this subject in my Romans, Galatians, Hebrews [chapter 11] studies; and of course the doctrine of believing in Jesus and ‘being saved’ is found in the gospel of John study and the Acts study. But for the most part the main verses on the subject are these few in Genesis and the key chapters from Romans [3-4] and Galatians [2-4]. The doctrine simply means that God has chosen to justify [declare legally righteous] all those who have faith in Christ. There are many varied ways that Christian communions deal with the whole process of salvation, some churches are what you would call Sacramental [they believe in the process of God using the sacraments to administer grace to the soul of the believer, and that thru these sacraments, mixed with faith, believers become justified] and others hold more closely to the Pauline idea of faith being the actual mechanism that God uses to justify [which is my personal view]. Many modern Protestants who strongly disagree with the sacramental churches [Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican] fail to see that most of the reformers embraced some form of sacramentalism along with their belief in justification by faith. Luther being the strongest example; his embracing of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist [body, blood, soul and divinity] caused him to split from the great Swiss reformer, Ulrich Zwingli, and Luther believed Zwingli to be damned because he rejected the body of Christ! So for today’s ‘neo-reformed’ [the resurgence among Calvinism in our day] to be so quick to condemn many other types of Christians [Like those who follow Tom Wright] these are not ‘being fair’ to the broad system of belief that many of the great reformers held to. Okay, the above verse begins the journey between God and Abraham, thru a series of events thru out Abraham’s life God will reveal himself to Abraham, and at those times Abraham has a choice to either believe the promises of God to him- or reject them. These promises center around God telling Abraham that he will have a future dynasty of children that will bless the whole earth. In this dynasty there will be a special son that comes out of the tribe of Judah [Jesus] and he will be the promised seed to whom the promises were made [Galatians 3,4]. Paul the apostle will use the great father of the faith, Abraham, to convince the Jewish people that God justifies people by faith, and not by the works of the law. Paul goes to these past historic events [Gen 12, 15] and shows his fellow Jews that God did indeed justify Abraham [count him righteous] when he believed in the promise made to him by God [Gen 15]. Paul says ‘see, God justified Abraham before he was circumcised, therefore justification [being legally made right with God] is by faith and not by the keeping of the law’. This argument from Paul is simple, yet masterful. His Jewish audience knew these stories well, they just never ‘saw’ what Paul was seeing; once he broke thru ‘the veil’ [Corinthians] that blinded their hearts from the truth, then they could not escape the reality of what he taught them- these cultural stories of father Abraham would never be the same again. As I progress over the next few days I want to note that when we get to the book of James, we will be looking at a different type of justification than what Paul focused on. James will use the great event from Abraham’s life, the offering up of his son Isaac on the altar [Gen 22] as the event to define justification from his view. Many reformed do not fully see what James is saying, in my view. This type of ‘bible study’ [the type where we try and make everything fit our view] is common among many good men, but it fails to see that the scriptures come to us more in the sense of a portable library of books that cover the various perspectives of the time. Now, I am not advocating the view that the scriptures err, or that the bible has ‘competing theologies’ what I am saying is James use of the word ‘justification’ is actually a different use than what Paul means when he uses the Genesis 15 example to explain justification. Instead of trying to reconcile James with Paul by saying ‘all James means is the faith that saves has works’, which is limited indeed, we should leave room for seeing how James is coming to the table from a different point of view. James being one of the lead apostles at the Jerusalem council from Acts 15, and his defense of the importance of works from the strong Jewish background. I think Hebrews 11 actually deals with this subject [go read my commentary on the chapter to see where I’m coming from]. Okay, let’s leave off for now- go read the studies I just mentioned, familiarize yourself with the key chapters and will do some more tomorrow.

 

(1444) AND HE TOOK HIM OUTSIDE AND SHOWED HIM THE STARS AND SAID ‘LOOK AT THEM, CAN YOU NUMBER THEM’ AND THE LORD SAID ‘SO SHALL YOUR OFFSPRING BE’ AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED IN GOD AND HE CREDITED IT TO HIS ACCOUNT AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. Genesis 15:5-6 [my paraphrase] As we journeyed from chapter 12, where God made the initial promise to Abraham, a few things occurred; God separated Abraham from his nephew Lot. The kings attacked Sodom and took Lot captive, Abraham took his men and went and freed Lot. The king of Sodom tries to reimburse Abraham for his good deed, Abraham turns him down. Abraham also went into Egypt and lied about Sarah his wife, out of fear he told the Egyptians she was his sister [so they wouldn’t kill him to get his wife] and the king takes her and later rebukes Abraham for lying. So he returns to the special place named Bethel [house of God] and regroups. Now in chapter 15 Abraham has some doubts, God gave Abraham this great promise of many children; but he has no kids yet! Abraham is getting up in years [around 75] and so is Sarah his wife; Abraham asks the Lord to consider counting his servant as his heir, this was done in those days. The Lord turns him down and says ‘no, one born from you will be the heir’ and this is just one stop of many along the path of Abraham’s doubts. Yes, he comes up with another winner down the road [like having a kid with the maid!] But this promise in chapter 15, and Abraham’s response by faith, is the actual text Paul uses in Galatians and Romans to show that being justified comes by faith, and not by keeping the law. I want to stress, this example from Abrahams life was real, he really was justified in Gods eyes by believing in the future promise of having a great dynasty; like I said in the last post, he was believing in Jesus when he believed in the promise. In the next few days I will try and cover some key verses in Galatians and Romans, but most of all I want you to see how God forgives people, makes them legally just in his sight, not because of what they have done- trying to do good, be a church goer, trying hard to keep the 10 commandments; all of these things are noble efforts, but they don’t earn God’s forgiveness, but God’s forgiveness is based on the grounds that Jesus died for our sins and rose again. All who believe in this promise are described as ‘the children of God, by faith in Jesus Christ’. Many of the Jewish people looked to Abraham as a great hero of the faith, Paul shows them thru these examples that all who believe, whether Jew or Gentile, become the ‘children of Abraham’ by faith, it’s not an ethnic/cultural thing anymore. If only the Muslims, Arabs and all other groups heard this message from the church; how liberating would this be! But we too often present an ethnic message based upon Old Testament verses that call certain Middle Eastern states ‘the enemies of Israel/God’. These views, not being rightfully filtered thru the message of the Cross, make it very difficult to evangelize the Arab world, after all would you want to embrace a religion whose book said ‘thus saith the Lord, all you white Europeans are a stench in my nostrils’! But because of our unwillingness to present a gospel based solely on faith, and not the ethnic backgrounds of individuals, we have reduced the message of the Cross from the wide net that the apostles used when presenting the message of Jesus- Lets declare with certainty ‘yes, we are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ’ Amen.

 

(1445) WAS NOT ABRAHAM OUR FATHER JUSTIFED BY WORKS WHEN HE OFFERED ISAAC HIS SON UPON THE ALTAR- YE SEE THEN HOW THAT BY WORKS A MAN IS JUSTIFED AND NOT BY FAITH ONLY- WAS NOT RAHAB THE HARLOT JUSTFIED BY WORKS?  James 2:22-26. Okay, in Genesis chapter 22 we read the story of God telling Abraham to offer up his son Isaac upon the altar. Abraham obeys God and at the last minute the Lord stops him; but the angel of the Lord says because he did this, that now God knows he can be trusted and God will fulfill his promise to him. James uses this story to define what he means when he speaks of ‘being justified’ in Gods sight. I believe there have been many noble attempts at trying to reconcile this passage with the passages in Romans and Galatians where Paul specifically says ‘a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith’. Paul clearly teaches us that men cannot be justified by the works of the law; James says ‘see how men are justified by works’. The explanations I have heard go like this ‘James was simply saying the faith that saves is an active living faith’ ‘James is simply saying men are justified in the sight of other men by their works’ ‘James is simply saying true faith has works along with it’ while all of these things are true, they seem to not adequately deal with the 3 passages I quoted at the top. James says that when Abraham offered up his son on the altar that the scripture was fulfilled that said ‘he believed in God and he counted it to him for righteousness’. James is fully aware of the Genesis 15 promise to Abraham, the key verse Paul uses to define justification by faith; it’s just James is speaking about the process thru out life where men actually become righteous in practice, which is a result of being legally made righteous by faith. In essence when James says ‘see how men are justified by works’ he is describing the act of God being pleased with us, God having the right to say ‘yes, you obeyed me son, and I call you righteous in my eyes because you did obey me’. This process can be defined as being ‘justified by works’ while not contradicting Paul’s use of the term ‘justification by faith’. To me it is quite clear that James is saying more than just ‘real faith has works’ no, he is saying that the legal/forensic act of justification by faith [Gen. 15] leads to a life of actually doing just things [obeying God- Gen. 22] and when the legally justified believer obeys God, in a sense he is justified in Gods sight [not men’s!] by these works. Now, this does not mean men are ‘saved’ by doing good works, in the sense that Paul uses ‘saved’ but James is saying that when believers do good works, these works cause a response from God that can be defined as ‘being justified in Gods sight by our good works’ a totally different theme than Paul. This passage has been a difficult one for many years, Luther battled with it and at one point called James epistle a ‘straw epistle’ he doubted its canonicity. The Catholic Church used this very passage in their council at Trent to refute what they saw as Luther’s neglect of good works. I have had Mormons and other various Christian groups use this passage in defending certain aspects of their churches; this passage is well worn in the annals of Christian apologetics, I think the explanation that I just gave is the best one; the other efforts that have been made to explain this passage have some truth to them, but at the end of the day they don’t fully explain the clear text of the above passages. I think this explanation explains them.

 

(1446) ‘Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no man be justified’ ‘I do not frustrate the grace of God, if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain’ ‘But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for the just shall live by faith’ Galatians 2:16, 21, 3:11.  Okay, these verses [as well as the book of Romans] strongly show us the New Testament doctrine of being justified when we believe in Christ. To many people this idea seems contrary to the normal belief that being a good person, doing good, going to ‘church’ trying to keep the 10 commandments; these are the normal ideas on what people think they need to do to ‘be saved’; yet the apostle shows us that our redemption is solely based on Christ’s death for us. He even says ‘if righteousness [being made just legally] comes by keeping the law, then Christ died in vain’! It almost seems strange for this doctrine to be found in the bible! Yet it is the basis of New Testament Christianity, which is based on a New Covenant [in contrast to the old one, which was the law] this New Covenant is grounded on the death and resurrection of Jesus; as Paul says ‘if Christ died for all of us, then we are all dead- so let those who now live, live unto God’. When I first became a Christian and started reading the bible, I saw these promises as saying ‘all who believe in Jesus are saved’ but I noticed how many believers taught a type of conversion that watered down this doctrine; some said ‘yes, you accept the Lord by faith’ and they seemed to add all types of steps that needed to be ‘done in faith’ in order to be a true believer. Whether it was an elaborate evangelical scheme that eventually led to kneeling at an altar in some church, or whether it was the exact memory and dating of the day you asked ‘Jesus into your heart’. Now I’m sure there are many fine believers who have come to the journey this way, my point is not to doubt their conversion; but the more I became aware of these many ideas, the more I studied the scriptures to see if faith really meant ‘faith’. My own conversion came from truly seeing the promises in John’s gospel on believing and having eternal life. It was more of an awakening, sort of God breaking thru and revealing grace to me. Now, my conversion was rather drastic, it wasn’t a slow coming to the Lord, but it didn’t fit the sinner’s prayer scheme that many of my Baptist friends embraced. I also noticed how many of my friends, after hearing the evangelical version for so long, would then ‘get saved’ for real! They would be convinced by some well meaning evangelist that their initial conversion was shot thru with holes, then they would sort of fabricate a ‘more legitimate’ conversion. Even strong believers would do this. So then you had to deal with the fact that these fellow believers, who were truly walking with the Lord for a while, were really lost all along! This process struck fear into the hearts of all the other church members, after all how many of them were deceived too? So I began to study the bible to see if bible conversions really meant this often elaborate schema. One thing I noticed is all of these verses on being justified by faith were based on the main promise to Abraham from God, which consisted of God taking Abraham outside and telling him ‘see the stars, your offspring will be like this’ and it actually was a passive act of belief, not some act of Abraham doing something, that is defined as the day God justified Abraham. Then I ran across Acts chapter 10, and this story shows Peter preaching to the gentiles and they simply believed the message and the Spirit fell on them- Peter was not expecting a conversion, they were surprised. This also was a passive type conversion. In the letter we are quoting from in this post [Galatians] Paul describes it like this ‘He that works miracles among you, does he do it by the works of the law or the HEARING OF FAITH’ Paul will describe their conversion as a point in time where they heard and had faith, again another seeming violation of the active conversion model. The main point being that yes, there are cases where the conversion is reduced to the simple act of believing in the gospel when it’s first preached. To be fair, in the New Testament the outward ‘act’ that usually took place on ‘conversion day’ was water baptism, so if we were totally honest with ourselves we could say that water baptism was the altar call of the New Testament, but the fact is faith itself is identified as the basis of our justification, faith in Christ.

 

(1448) ‘Now we know that what things so ever the law saith, it saith to them that are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law shall no person become just in God’s sight: for by the law comes the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is manifested, even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all that believe’ Romans 3:19-22.  Once again Paul makes clear that people become right in God’s eyes when they believe in his son, the attempt at becoming right with God by obeying the law is futile. Why? Because that was never the intended purpose of the law. God gave the law to reveal to man his sin; when men would try to live up to the standard, they would fall short and realize their need for a savior and then would turn to Christ. Paul says before the law came [before he personally became aware of it] he was without guilt, but once he realized the statutes of God and saw Gods holy standard; he said that sin in him revived and he died. Or the law caused a reaction in him that made his sinful nature appear to be much worse than he originally thought. Paul said in Galatians that the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, but after faith has come we are no longer under a schoolmaster. He said ‘wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions till the seed should come [Jesus=seed, offspring] to whom the promise was made’. Paul taught that the purpose of the law was to reveal to man his own sin, that there never was a law given that a man could obey in order to become saved. The other day I googled the ministry name and was glad to see that some Catholic friends have been posting our site on Catholic sites. Great! My goal is not to convince fellow Christians to change churches, or become Protestant; my goal is to accurately teach the truth to all who want to hear. To some of our Catholic friends these verses seem unbelievable, that is they might seem too good to be true. I want to assure you that the Catholic church believes the things that I just taught! But like all Christian churches, sometimes we don’t effectively communicate these truths to the people. Many people do not realize that the current Pope, Benedict, is one of the most able theologians that the church has had in this office. John Paul the 2nd was a great man, don’t get me wrong. But he was more of a philosopher/humanist charismatic figure; Benedict is more of a teacher. Why mention this? Because you will notice that the last year or so the Pope has made an extra effort to teach Paul’s epistles and to focus more on a strong Christology than in past years. This Pope has made efforts to bridge the gap between Protestants and Catholics; he also has come closer to the Protestant view of certain passages that speak of justification by faith. A few years ago a joint statement was made that many Protestants saw as a major breakthrough in this very area. I want to assure my Catholic readers, yes- it sounds too good to be true, but it is! Even your church believes it! That is we all believe that we are freely saved by Gods grace that comes to us thru the Cross of Christ. I would be dishonest to say there are no more difficult doctrinal issues between the great Christian confessions, but I can say for a surety ‘we are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ’. Note- I am not saying the Catholic church does not believe in the importance of keeping the 10 commandments, they believe that all Christians should keep the commandments.

 

(1449) ‘What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein’? Romans 6:1 Being we are just hitting on the theme of justification by faith, and because I already did an entire study on Romans, I will skip over chapter 4; but I want to mention that chapter 4 covers a lot of important material about Abraham and the fact that God justified him prior to his circumcision, Paul uses this illustration to show us that being accepted with God transcends ethnic/racial lines. Many of the Jewish people of Paul’s day [including Paul’s former life!] saw acceptance with God along the lines of ethnic/cultural relations; if you were part of the Jewish nation and partook of all the rights and privileges of ethnic Israel, then you were seen as being accepted with God. But Paul’s message of justification by faith applies to ‘all the seed’ [offspring] not just to those who have become circumcised and have joined into ethnic Israel. So these points are important to understand. But now let’s get to the above verse. Paul will emphatically teach that the message of free grace does not mean we have a license to sin; he teaches this in ALL of his letters. It’s easy to focus in on the justification by faith themes [which we are doing in this study] and overlook the moral teachings of the apostle. Paul will teach ethics, not from a legal/law grounding [obey the 10 commandments] but from a new resurrection reality. He states that those of us who have been joined [baptized] into Christ have identified with him in death; the old man [sinful nature] has died along with Jesus and has been buried. Now that we are alive with him we live a new life unto God. Paul will say ‘shall we sin because we are now under grace and not under law’ and notice, he does not appeal to the law, instead he says ‘no, because whoever you serve [sin or righteousness] you become a slave to it, and if you are a slave to sin you will die’. Paul appeals to the reality of sin and death as still being a real price to be paid by those who reject Jesus. It’s important to see this theme from Paul, it backs up his teaching that believers are not under the law. In the next day or so I will wrap up this study; if I had the time and space I could go thru all the moral mandates we find in Paul’s letters, and it would be an important thing to emphasize. It’s just this is not the purpose of this study. But I would be remiss if I did not at least hit a few key scriptures from the apostle himself that show us that he certainly was not teaching lawlessness; he himself stressed the need for believers living a holy life. Its just the grace to live it comes from the power of the Cross, not from the law.

 

(1450) BUT NOW WE ARE DELIVERED FROM THE LAW, THAT BEING DEAD WHEREIN WE WERE HELD; THAT WE SHOULD SERVE IN NEWNESS OF SPIRIT, AND NOT IN THE OLDNESS OF THE LETTER. Romans 7:6 I think this will be a good chapter to end our series on justification by faith. Paul uses one of my favorite analogies to describe the new relationship we have in Christ; he says a woman, as long as her husband is alive, is bound by the law to her husband. If she goes out and sleeps with another man, she is convicted by the law and is committing adultery. But if the husband dies, then the same act of being with another man [in marriage] is no longer called adultery, by virtue of the death of the husband she has become free from the law that condemned her. Now Paul teaches that we too have become dead to the law thru the death of Christ, so that we should be married to another; even to him who died and rose again! I have often said it’s sad that believers in our day know all the catch phrases, they are familiar with the pop Christian culture verses and all, but these very important themes are often overlooked. Would to God that all believers were familiar with this scripture, walking around in life quoting ‘we have become dead to the old law thru Christ, we are now alive with him and are married to him who rose from the grave’. Thru out this chapter Paul once again shows that the law is holy and good, but its purpose was to arouse in us our sinful nature in order to reveal to us the need for a savior. The old way of life for Paul was one of condemnation and never being able to do enough to appease his sinful conscience, when he saw the realities of the new covenant he was delivered from that old mindset and began to see a new way to approach God, a free liberating walk with God, apart from the daily grind of trying in his own power to become righteous. Many good believers struggle with this for years, and there really is no trick or gimmick to the spirit filled life. Paul will go on and teach the need for self discipline; he said he ‘beat his body to bring in into subjection’ he obviously was not espousing a Christian walk that never had struggles again. But he was telling us that there is a fundamental difference between approaching the Christian life thru a legalistic mindset, or thru the freedom that comes from Christ. In conclusion we have learned that right from the early days of Abraham God had revealed to us that there was coming a day when men would approach God upon the grounds of faith, and not by works; that God included this great promise in the bible since the beginning; it was not an afterthought! Paul showed us that this new way of life was ordained of God before the law was given; it just took a couple of thousand years to get to the promised ‘seed’. Paul showed us that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised child, and now that he has come we are no longer under the schoolmaster [law] but we have been freed from the old law thru the death of Christ, we are now married to another, even to him who rose from the grave- AMEN!

 

[1578] WEEK IN REVIEW- Okay- I need to share one of those weird moments- at times in the past I’ve had signs and stuff that to be honest- do freak me out. So this week, as I have been reading various bible chapters- kinda skipping around- I read the words of Jesus in Matthew about the last days. So I realize I kinda joked about it the other day- wrote a post called ‘doomsday is here’ and shared a few thoughts. So as I was looking at some of the bible passages on the end times- I focused in on a verse- one that I have liked/written down in the past- It’s Jesus doing the talking [you know- the red letters] and he says ‘when I return- it will be no secret- everyone will know- it will be just like the lightning that shines from one end of the sky all the way to the other’ [my paraphrase- which means I’m basically making the king James version easier to understand] Some versions say ‘like a bright light that will shine from one end of the sky to the other’. Okay- no joke- I’m watching CNN the other day [yes- the doomsday channel- go read the other post] and sure enough Wolf Blitzer [In Letterman’s top 10 the other day- he had the top 10 things said at Larry Kings retirement party- one was ‘will somebody tell Wolf Blitzer to put on a shirt’!] has a story about a strange light that ‘shone from one end of the sky to the other’. So I watched the story- yes in some state [?] many people witnessed a bright unknown light that lit up the whole sky- and they said it went from ‘one end of the sky to the other’ theyhad one video of the reflection seen on the ground- it looked like a huge flash from a camera- only longer. It was weird- you say ‘Okay brother- you have gotten me mad with your politics- you rub me the wrong way with all your bible stuff- and now you got me a little scared- kinda wondering- so what do you want me to do’? Okay- sow a financial seed for $1,000 every time you see …. [okay- I know- I need to top doing stuff like this]. The story is true- just kidding about ‘the seed’ [I don’t take money- ever].

 

Kinda wanted to stay on track with the last few posts [guess I already blew that] but let me do this- let’s do a ‘week in review’ thing- and at the end I will post the study I did on the book of Galatians- it’s in keeping with the bible study I’ve been sharing.

 

Okay- the week is gone- we had the terrible shooting in Arizona and the nation mourned. The [liberal] media made total fools of themselves- they blamed the deaths on Sarah Palin and the right wing- day after day Chris Matthews said ‘where is Palin! Why won’t she talk! Come out and take responsibility [for something you didn’t do?]-or  you will be erased’. Then- after the entire nation realized that the shooter held to no specific political ideology [though you could make the case that he is a radical liberal- he is an atheist- had Marx’ book in his possession- he certainly does not fit the description of a right wing radical Christian fundamentalist] after a few days of Mathews and one of the main stream news networks accusing her of being responsible- she finally puts out a video [yes- I now the blood libel thing] and she says she is not guilty for the shooting [which is true] simply defends herself in public after being accused, and the main accuser [Matthews] saying day after day ‘why are you in hiding- it’s proof of your guilt’ so what should the woman do? She ‘comes out of hiding’ and yes- the liberal media says ‘can youbelieve the gall of this woman! To have the nerve to make a statement and to shame the victims by trying to steal the spotlight from the dead 9 year old girl’ wow. I believe MSNBC should just go away- this network- along with the entire group of accusers who jumped the gun [Paul Krugman] these people are a shame to humanity [am I blunt enough?]

 

A few years back we had some guy fly his plane into the I.R.S building in Austin [Texas capitol] at first people though ‘right wing nut job’ found out later that he was a disgruntled left wing ‘nut job’ an avowed Marxist. Oh well. A year or so ago we had some guy try to blow up a car bomb in Times Square- mayor Bloomberg opined ‘maybe it’s someone on the right, disgruntled with the health care law’ wrong again- radical Islamist. Strike 2. Okay- one more chance to find a real right winger- I know- remember Ted Kaczynski [Unabomber]? He was the guy sending bombs to corporations and stuff- blowing up people for many years- they finally caught him- it turned out that he was a radical environmentalist- had Al Gore’s book in his hut- and he saw the industrialized world as the enemy- strike 3. I do not recall in any of these instances- a single media story about the danger of radical left wing speech- about Chris Matthews dangerous rhetoric when he says ‘someone needs to shoot a co2 pellet into Rush Limbaugh’s head’ in none of these stories was there even an inkling of blame placed upon those who hold to left wing ideology. But the media this week not only blamed Sarah Palin personally for the victims in Arizona- but the entire mainstream media, when caught with their pants down- haven’t themselves apologized for jumping the gun in the shameful way that they did- they haven’t retracted their accusations [in the main] nor have they personally apologized for doing stories about Palin ‘targeting’ the district of the woman that was shot- linking the silly political ‘targeting of the district’ with the horrendous shooting of the congresswoman- this single piece of reporting has been the most irresponsible piece of biased journalism I have seen in years.

 

So to finish for the week- I think the president gave an excellent speech the other day- did not play into this hype- and deserves credit for being a good president- a president who represented both sides of the aisle.

 

[1579] Okay- I wasn’t going to post today- but figured I’ll go ahead and finish these brief thoughts on the doctrine of Justification by Faith [by the way- Justification is a legal term that means the judge declares you righteous- just- there are lots of technical terms that apply to what Christians mean when they say ‘saved’ and to be honest- many Christians fight over these various differences- but for this short overview I can’t get into the whole debate]. Those of you who have read the studies I’ve posted at the end of these posts- I do get into some of the debate- and I want to be honest about the ‘official’ differences between Catholic and Protestant [Reformed] views. But first- the bible clearly teaches the doctrine[teaching] that thosewho believe in Jesus are saved- so you might have some Christians who say ‘I don’t care what the official teaching of my church is- I believe it because the bible says it’ that’s fine- I have no problem with that- accept- to be honest- the Protestantworld is plagued with preachers, televangelists, radio preachers [yes I’m in this camp] and book writers who mean well- but they for the most part are teaching snippets of truth [sometimes outright falsehoods] and most of them use the ‘I believe it because the bible says it’ line- so even though it’s good for all of us to read and believe the bible- it’s also important to not be ‘seeing stuff’ that no one else has ‘seen’ for 2 thousand years of church history! [by the way- comments like this don’t get me in good standing with most other Protestants] The main point I want you guys to see is as I have shared with you this teaching- I’ve also shown you that yes- this teaching is not something that you find in a single obscure verse taken out of context- but it is a major theme of the apostle Paul- who just happens to be the most prolific writer of the New Testament [his letters make up the majority of the New Testament]. Now- during the official schism between Catholics and Protestants in the 1500’s, the Protestant position became the classic doctrine of Justification by Faith- that is the Protestant church [mainly what today is called Reformed theology- ever since the 16th century schism there are so many divisions of Protestants it is impossible to say what ‘Protestants believe’ in the broad sense] said the mechanism- actual way- people become justified by God is when they believe- have faith in Christ. The Catholic position said a person becomes legally justified in Gods sight at Baptism- Baptism is seen as the actual act a person does in order to become justified. Now- wars have been fought over this- Protestants call other Protestants heretics over this- there are many groups of Protestants who also teach that a person ‘becomes saved’ at baptism- and the strong ‘anti baptism’ crowd often refers to the ‘we get saved at baptism’ crowd as cults! This is pretty sad in my view- I can go thru all the verses that each side uses to ‘justify’ their belief- and suffice it to say that there are enough ‘you get saved at baptism’ verses to not see that belief as heresy. So I personally have no problem with Catholic Christians- or Church of Christ believers- or the multitude of other Pentecostals, Baptists [certain sects] who see their ‘I got saved’ day as the day they were baptized. I don’t want to get into the whole debate on infant baptism- I’ve written about it under my Statement of faith section- and once again the churches that practice it have their reasons- it’s not as ‘crazy’ as manyProtestants portray it- thereare many fine Christians who were baptized as babies. But what I want to end this brief study with is this- the basic teaching of the New Testament is that we are accepted with God because of what his Son did for us- Jesus- the Son of God- God in the flesh- died for all mankind’s sins, he was buried and rose again according to the scriptures [1stCorinthians 15]. The mindset that thinks ‘if I go to church- do my best to keep the 10 commandments- and try and avoid killing somebody thru out my life- heck who knows- maybe I’ll make it thru the pearly gates?’ Well that’s the mindset I want to challenge- lots of good, well meaningChristians walk thru life thinking this way- and it’s to those brothers/sisters that I have been talking too- even though the Catholics and Protestants have differences- yet we all teach that we are saved by Grace- not by keeping the 10 commandments or ‘going to church’ yes- this is clearly taught in the bible- and the Christian churches all teach it- even if this truth never ‘trickled down’ to the people in the pews. So as I post the last study in this short series of posts [Romans] if you can- read the whole study- I did it a while ago- by the way- all these studies and books on the blog are written by me- so what you read in the studies is a longer version of these short posts- but if you can, read the whole study- if not then try and read chapters 2-5- these chapters cover the heart of what we have been talking about- and to all my readers- Jews, Hindu’s, Atheists, Muslims- whoever- these promises are given to all of us- if we would only believe.  John

 

[1580]  MODERATE ISLAM? The other day I wrote a post on one of the coalition leaders that formed the new govt. in Iraq- I noted how this guy was a warlord who killed our men during the war- he is now one of the top political leaders in the govt. – the same govt. that our men are dying for. O well, maybe he has changed his tune? As soon as he took his seat- he spoke of our brave men and women- our guys dying on the field- he referred to them as ‘THE ENEMY’ and vowed to rid his nation of the U.S. scum as soon as possible. You wonder why I’m against the war.

 

I wrote another post about the killing of the governor of Punjab province- Pakistan. The governor- Salman Taseer- was a moderate Muslim who spoke in defense of the Christian woman- Asia Bibi- who was sentenced to death for INSULTING MUHAMMAD- And just how did she commit this terrible crime you ask? There were some guys working the fields in her area- she offered them water to drink- they told her they would not drink water from the defiled hands of one who believes in Jesus. Fine- she defended her faith and they reported her to the law- for supposedly breaking the blasphemy law. O- I forgot- they raped her first. Surely the govt. – you know- our allies in the war- the country we pour billions of dollars into every year- surely they will step in and stop this atrocity.I’m sure MSNBC and all the liberal women’s rights groups will spend weeks condemning this atrocity- that is if they can take a break from accusing Sarah Palin of being responsible for the mass murders in our country. The Pakistan govt. condemned the woman to death. The killer- Malik MumtazHussainQadri- who murdered the governor for defending the woman- has been praised for his act- by whom? The radical extremists who have ‘hijacked Islam’? He has been praised by 500 top leading scholars of Islam. These scholars are referred to as ‘moderate’. These same leaders said anyone attending the funeral of the governor- or speaking out on his behalf- they too will be guilty of blasphemy and would deserve to die as well. These are the top moderate scholars mind you.

 

The point? We have our kids dying in these countries- we have parented with these governments and spent billions of dollars in aid- some estimates say we are spending 100 billion a year in Afghanistan alone. The former president [Bush] often defended the wars by saying we are freeing women who are being oppressed by oppressive regimes- we are establishing free- peace loving democracies in the midst of the radical extremist world- when I look at all these above events- I wonder if the ‘radical- extremist’ governments are being replaced- it seems to me that they are still running the show.

 

[1581] COURAGE-Last night I caught a real interesting show- it came on ‘by itself’ that is I must have checked the programmer to come on every Monday at that time [I don’t remember checking it]. Every Monday on EWTN [the Catholic station] I try and watch the Journey Home- with Marcus Grodi- he has real interesting guests who have converted from Protestantism back to the Catholic Church. It’s interesting to see these stories- I have yet to see a convert that was not well informed and knew the bible as well as church history- overall good show. So anyway another show popped up [they moved the encore presentation from 10 to midnight] and it was a profile of a group called Courage- I have heard a little bit about them before- they are a Catholic 12 step program designed to help people who are struggling with the gay lifestyle- it helps them return to the faith and attempt to live chaste lives. Now- I know this subject is hot- I have gay friends- lots of us have gay family members- and the country just had a big debate about gays in the military- so it gets people riled up. I really liked just listening to the stories the guys were sharing; one of the brothers was living in San Fran. And he had a relative that invited him to a courage conference in N.Y. He said he really never wanted to go- but his brother would always ask him in a nice way- so he accepted the all expense paid trip and flew to the city- he shared how spending a few days listening to other gay people who have returned to the church- that he experienced a conversion himself. When he went back to Ca. his friends told him ‘you even look different’ within 6 months he moved back to N.Y. A few of the other guys shared similar stories- it was an honest show- I liked it because it wasn’t the normal ‘Christian verses gays’ type thing you see all the time- but just an honest story about gay men seeking to live celibate lives- they are not ‘fighting’ the church- joining the parade of those wanting to make the church change its position on the subject- they are just men who have returned to a former faith- and are seeking God. These stories are also a lesson forProtestants- I can tell you- just watching the show- I could hear in my mind the normal Protestant response ‘these guys aren’t even saved’! Yet the conversion that the men experienced- it was obvious that these men were sincere Christians- trying to overcome things that they felt they needed to overcome. Now- I do realize that even this short note can be highly offensive to those living the gay lifestyle- sort of like ‘who do they/you think you are to say they need to overcome anything’ I hear you. I’m familiar with the whole debate- I do understand that there are many movements today that accept the gay monogamous lifestyle as a legitimate Christian way to live. But the normal- traditional belief [which I do hold to] is we should love and respect all people- even those in the GLBT community- and at the same time be honest about what the bible says on the subject [basically the bible does say it is a sin- this is a big debate amongst many scholars- teachers- and some think otherwise- I wrote a post on this in the past, if I can find it I’ll paste it at the end]. I do think that too many Christians respond the wrong way in many of these debates- even during the recent ‘gays in the military’ debate- some believers said ‘gaysshouldn’t serve in the military because the bible says it’s a sin’ Yikes! Look- I just gave you my own conservative view- I do believe the bible says it’s not an acceptable lifestyle- yet to use that reasoning to ban gays from any job- that’s just not a good approach in my view. You very rarely- if ever- hear that argument made against those who are just ‘sleeping around’ as far as I know- at least when I was in the navy- just about everybody did. I do understand the whole argument that some military leaders made- that it affects certain ways the military functions- should we allow same sex attraction to exist in living together- taking showers- etc. But that’s a different concern- and basically Christians should not seek to ban gay people from anything. The criteria should not simply be the sexual orientation of the person. I felt bad for the gay pilot who was making the rounds in support of overturning the ban [which did pass by the way] he was in the military for 19.5 years- almost enough to retire- and because he spoke out there were rumors that they were going to discharge him- I mean if I were the one making the decision- I would have never discharged him just because he was gay- especially after almost 20 years of good service. So all in all I think believers [and humans!] in general should try their best to not discriminate against people because of race, sex- etc. And at the same time be honest about the churches’ belief- and realize that there are a lot of people in society that don’t want the church/Christians to tell them anything- that’s fine- that is Christians should not take the position ‘we are at war with you guys- you’re on one side- we are on the other’ Jesussimply never approached it like that [yes- he never spoke specifically about the subject- but he never approached any sinful lifestyle with that mindset- he loved people- was upfront about their sin ‘go and sin no more- I don’t condemn you’ type thing- but never engaged in the way the conservative right has done]. Okay- not sure why we went this way today- just felt strongly that I needed to comment on it. John

 

[1582]  HITCHENS-PIRATES AND M THEORY- Let’s talk a little more about Christopher Hitchens book- God is not great. As I’m reading thru the book- and also doing some studying on Modernity- it’s obvious for me to see the errors in the arguments Hitchens is making in trying to refute the existence of God. Instead of attempting to refute each argument he makes [and to be honest- he does make many classic mistakes- things that are not really hard to show as false]. Let me give you just a few points- Hitchens comes at you from all angles- history, science, historical criticism [a view of the bible that tries to undermine the historical accuracy of the faith] politics- he basically covers all the angles that I too like to engage in. He is smart- no doubt about it- and he mocks Christians, Jews, Muslims- and he does it in a way that says ‘you are all idiots’. So that’s why when attempting to refute him- when I see him doing something stupid- I try and bring that out. Okay- one of the major mistakes Hitchens makes [a common mistake in the field of apologists versus atheists] is he appeals to the basic idea ‘we- as intellectual people do not accept things based on faith- we only believe things that can be scientifically proven to be true’ now- how many times have you heard this? This argument is only made by those who are ‘novices’ in this debate. Why? Because at face value it is very easy to refute. Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris- and all the other famous atheists believe in all types of historical events- things that happened in the past- without a singleshred of ‘scientific proof’. Let’s see- Do you believe Lincoln was shot? Have you personally done DNA tests on the remains? Have you even seen the remains? Let’s see- what about Aristotle and Socrates and Plato- surely as refined as these men are- they most certainly believe that these great Greek philosophers lived 4 centuries before Christ. Again- what scientific proof can you show me- you know- the standard that you’re using to judge whether or not Jesus ever lived? Basically the argument that says ‘faith and Jesus and God are not real truth- not like science’ is a totally illogical argument- unless these men would have us believe that they reject all of the above historical figures I just mentioned. So how does the bible- Jesus- God- hold up to the historical test [not the scientific test!]? Point of fact- there is no other historical person- in the history of the world- with more historical proofs of his existence. There are no other ancient documents- dating back to the time of Christ- that have the historical accuracy that we find in the New Testament- Luke- the writer of both the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts- from a purely historical point of view- is considered the best- most accurate- first century historian to have ever lived [I explained it all before under the Evolution/Cosmology section- I think it’s in the 8-2010 posts]. Basically the argument Hitchens is making is dishonest at its core. Then- he gets into M Theory [geez- didn’t really want to go there] Okay- I love studyingscience, history, Physics. And to be honest- Physics is really not my ‘field’ that is I prefer to show you the mistakes Hitchens is making when he pretends to be a bible student [he makes statements that he is a regular reader of the bible- who goes thru it often- I seriously doubt that claim- he seems to be familiar with certain critical scholars of scripture- theories that have long been rejected- documentary theory by Wellhausen- and you can kinda tell he simply reads the critics and incorporates their ideas into his own- heck- if there is no God- then what’s wrong with plagiarism?]Okay- Hitchens seems to be enamored with Stephen Hawking- I wrote about Hawking a month or so ago- in his recent book- Grand Design- he made some ‘Grand mistakes’ and I refuted these errors. Now Hitchens seems fascinated by certain theories of Hawking- and his worship of the man’s theories goes to the extreme. Hitchens speaks of the famous idea in theoretical physics called M Theory- modern physics [standardtheory] says our universe is made up of Pixels- fine points of matter that are unseen by the naked eye- but exist as the basic fabric of the universe. Now- we all accept this- Atoms- Neutrons- etc. all little ‘dots’ if you will, that make up our universe. So M theory [a theory that expands upon String theory] says ‘no- maybe the universe is made up of these strings- these vibrating strings that form into circles- and under these hoops- there are buckets that make up the matter of the universe’ Okay- just think in your head of a piece of string- make a loop- under the loop stick a basketball net. Walla- that’s the theory. Now- does this sound stupid to you? Well you’re in good company- it also sounds stupid to a growing number of very able physicists! Yes- many brilliant- non religious scientists- will tell you that doing science like this- just making stuff up- is loony. So to be honest- as interesting as theoretical physics is- there are many things that simply do not meet the standard of ‘solid science’. So- why mention this. Hitchens uses this theory as proof against the existence of God [in a weird- tortured way] and at the same time says ‘I don’t accept things that can’t be scientifically proven’ yet the whole M theory field is very doubtful- some think the whole thing is simply not true. So it’s stuff like this- obvious mistakes- that are sprinkled all thru out his book. I mean he even makes mistakes that novices make- he mistakenly refers to the establishing of the state of Israel as having occurred in the 19th century- I mean I can’t believe he doesn’t know the actual date- 1948- I have to think that he simply made the common mistake of thinking the years 1900-1999 are the ‘19th century- a common mistake made by people who are just beginning the journey of learning[obviously the 1900’s are the 20thcentury]. But at the same time he lambasts Christians as idiots and does stuff like this. It reminds me of the time I was watching MSNBC- now this cable channel is filled withnonstop mocking of the political right- one morning the host [Scarborough] was doing his show- and he reads the upcoming story to come on after the commercial- but you can see he’s confused- he asks someone off screen ‘does that say Pirates’? And they tell him yes- he then says ‘folks- your not gonnabelieve this- but when we get back- yes- we will cover the developing story of Pirates- yes I know it sounds unbelievable- Pirates attacked a ship off the coast of Somalia’. Now- no one ever said anything- he came back and simply reported the story. What’s wrong? He obviously thought Pirates meant ‘Pirates’ you know- Johnny Depp and the Caribbean. I’m sure someone informed him during the commercial ‘Piracy is the official term for robbery on the high seas- you dummy’! Can you imagine the mocking they would have done if Sarah Palin had done this? So I see in Hitchens a mocking of religion and at the same time a conceited view of his own intellect- and the intellect of other atheists- he engages in a sort of debate that says ‘look- you religionists are idiots- we are not’ and he makes such obvious mistakes- things that ‘uneducated’ people do all the time- not bad people- just common mistakes like the ‘19th century’ thing. And if people make mistakes like this [Pirates- etc.] fine- we don’t want to beat people up- but if the entire premise of your book [or cable channel] is ‘look at all the Christian idiots’ and then you make the same mistakes your criticizing the Christians for- well then yes- you look as silly as Joe Scarborough thinking Johnny Depp and his crew were out robbing ships!

 

[1583] DOCTOR KING- This past week we once again celebrated the life of Martin Luther King- a few weeks ago I did some teaching on how important it is to keep things in their proper context. In the area of Christian preaching/teaching the worst example I have dealt with over the years was the very popular teaching- often described as ‘the prosperity gospel’. Maybe at the end of this post I’ll re-post my first little book I wrote- it dealt with the issue. Years ago, when learning the bible and pastoring my own home church- I had lots of preacher friends- and one time everyone got into this business [it basically was a pyramid scheme] I think it was called Diamonds- anyway my Christian friends all got into it. I avoided the whole deal. One day one of my buddies was telling me all about it- how it’s based on the bible and all. He went on and explained the verse in Matthews’s gospel [chapter 6?] where Jesus gives the famous teaching about the parable of the planter [sower] of seeds. In the teaching Jesus makes a statement ‘and some get a hundred times back from what they plant’ [the 100 fold return]. And as he went on he explained that the will of God was to make a hundredfold return on your money- so that’s why we should all be joining the ‘team’ because if we are not out- every day- pursuing ‘the return’ then we are obviously disobeying Jesus. As he was speaking- I realized he really did not see that the way he was reading Jesus words was so out of context- I mean in the actual teachingJesus says ‘the deceitfulness of riches chokes the seed- so you don’t get a full harvest’ in this context- you see Jesus is not all about us spending every day of our lives seeking a huge financial harvest- I mean you can’t miss it! I did say to my friend ‘ hey brother- you do know the bible says ‘they that desire to become rich have gone off track- they have been sidetracked from the faith and have gone down the wrong path- the love-pursuit of money is the root of all evil’’ 1st Timothy chapter 6. He simply had no idea that the bible taught this- the preachers he was listening to never dealt with the bible in context- they just took bits and pieces of it- and developed teachings that were contrary to what Jesus actually taught. So I found it ironic that many in the media- who praise doctor King for his non violent stance- his statement on judging people- not on skin color, but character. These same people portray the president as a socialist because of his past associations with the labor movements. Yet Doctor King, the night before he was killed- gave the famous speech at Mason Temple- in Memphis- he said how he now wasn’t sure that he personally would get to see the final results of his mission- in a sense he knew he was going to die- but yet he ‘saw the mountain’ he knew he had traveled far enough on the road God had initially called him to- with all of his own personal failures- yet God permitted him to see that the end result would be accomplished- though he was beginning to doubt whether or not he would live long enough himself to see it. It was a very prophetic event for sure- the next day doctor King would give his life for the cause. But many in the media don’t tell you that King was in Memphis supporting the poor working conditions/wages of the garbage men- he was supporting a union cause! The point is- we often read- hear bits and pieces of the story- and if we are not familiar with the record- the life of the person- his struggles and personal convictions- then it’s easy to miss read what the person was all about. I guess I’ll post the short little book here at the end- those of you reading this on the sites that are not big enough to fit the whole post- you can go to the blog- corpuschristioutreachministries- and the books and studies can be found in the 2-2010 posts, and the 8-2010 posts [and next month they will also be in the 2-2011 posts]. The book I mentioned is called House of Prayer or Den of Thieves and the study is called Prosperity Gospel- you’ll get more from those teachings on this subject.

 

[1584]  OUR COURT SYSTEM- Okay- yesterday I spoke a little about race- politics. Let me share a routine I got into these last few years- whenever I read/see a news story about a local person facing severe criminal prosecution- I add that person to an actual ‘prayer wall’ [about 12-15 names so far] and I pray for the person/case over the next few years. I have people on the wall who I have been praying for- for around 7 years or so. These are cases where they were sent to jail for murder- others who had stiff sentences for multiple felonies- and some who seem to have gotten ‘shafted’. One case is Hannah Overton- she was tried for murdering her foster child- Andrew Burd. She wasfound guilty and I think they gave her life in prison. As I watched the case develop it got lots of attention in the media- Hannah was a Christian missionary, living locally and attending a local church. Her foster son had drank water with spices in it- Hannah found him not breathing and they took him to a clinic down the road from where they lived. I did not join the crowd of ‘free the Christian’ type thing- she claimed total innocence- said she gave the boy the water/spices because he had an eating disorder- always wanted food- and she gave it to him as a filler. I personally did not believe that- yet I felt trying her for murder [I forget the exact charge- it was a charge that you would get if you actually shot someone] was overboard. The case was public- the prosecutors- who are basically elected politicians- played it to the hilt ‘we will rid the streets of such heinous criminals’ while right down the street from me theycan’t even solve the crime of the car that pulled up in broad daylight- blew the other driver away- and took off. But these cases, child abuse, make for good theateramong the electorate. So during the trial, the prosecution dropped the charge of making it sound like she killed the kid by giving him the water- even the doctor for the prosecution disputed his own team- instead they found her guilty of not getting the boy to the hospital in time- and this crime/mistake [not abuse] was punished with the same severe sentence of actually killing a person. The problem? As someone who has worked in the emergency field for 25 years [Fire/E.M.S.] the last thing you want to do is discourage people from bringing injured people in for treatment because they think if they didn’t bring them in fast enough they might be sent to prison! This case eventually made it to one of the news magazine shows [20-20, 60 minutes?] and they had some medical experts testify, that yes indeed, this boy did have all the signs of an eating disorder that was consistent with Hannah’sstory. During the case others who knew the child did testify that he used to eat anything he could get his hands on- trash, stuff like that. So it did very much raise doubt in my mind- but even if she was guilty of all the things eventually charged against her- which was simply not getting aid rendered in time- this should not have merited such a harsh sentence. Then a few months back- while watching the news- I saw a local judge [might be the same one? Not sure] involved in a car wreck that almost killed a person- maimed him pretty badly. The judge was doing 70 MPH in a 25 MPH ZONE- on a turn. He hit a city worker on the shoulder and almost killed him. As the case developed the judge was simply fined a traffic ticket and the local media explained how even though the stated speed limit was 25, the official limit on the highway is 70, and that’s what you go by. I have been to these wrecks many times- if it was a civilian- he would have gotten some type of reckless driving charge. The judge got off. The problem with these cases, dealing with the law-men who get sent to prison for 30 years-later released on DNA evidence [just happened to another Black guy here in TX.] We need to hold the system responsible- what type of penalty should the prosecutor get for lying under oath? You ask- what do you mean brother? These prosecutors stand in the court- look at the jury- and then point to the defendant and say ‘he is guilty, he robbed- killed- raped- etc.’ and then when we later release them after ruining their lives- those who stood in court- and yes- did lie under oath [the things they said are now found to be factually false] what penalty do they pay?‘Why brother, if we held them to that standard [of not lying] then you would have a hard time getting prosecutors to try cases’. Maybe we need that- we need judges, prosecutors, and others in the system to be more careful before they go after people-knowing the case is getting good political theatre- then they will be more careful before they falsely accuse people [the Duke Lacrosse team]. And to have a system- a system where a judge gets a ticket for what others face harsh penalties for- this system is simply too unjust at times- to trust this system with handing out the death penalty- I personally am against it- too much room for personal agendas and false balances. Though we do get our court system from the Old Testament law- Moses the law giver and the moral code of the bible is actually the basis for our system- yet in that system you did not have the role of a government sponsored prosecutor- who would actually lie in court as part of his job- you had witnesses appear before a judge and the witnesses and the accused would have a chance to tell their story- but you did not have cases where the govt. officially had a prosecutor falsely accuse the defendant- our system is problematic- even from a biblical view.

 

[1585] ANOTHER SHAKESPEARE?  As I continue to read thru some of the arguments against Christianity- the pros and cons- one of the common threads that run thru the critics minds is the entire field of what is called ‘the historical method- higher criticism’. I have written extensively on it in the past- and will just hit a few points for today. This method of study developed in the German universities during the late 19th– early20th centuries. Men like Rudolph Bultmann would popularize it- and before him thinkers like Hegel would play their role in setting the field for a new way of thinking about the bible and Christian truth. During this time many professors/scholars began studying the bible in the original languages [Old testament- Hebrew. New Testament- Greek] and they noticed something interesting- the first 5 books of the bible- commonly attributed to Moses [meaning he wrote them] were found to have used different Hebrew words for God. You also noticed different ways things were phrased in different sections- this lead some thinkers to espouse an idea called ‘the documentary hypothesis’ when I recently critiqued the atheist- Christopher Hitchens- he used this argument in his book- but you could tell he simply read the theory from someone else [a teacher- BartErhman] and that he was really not familiar with the entire field. This theory is usually attributed to a thinker named Wellhausen, and it gained popularity among the school of teachers often referredto as liberal theologians [liberal- not politically- but in theology]. Eventually the idea arose that Moses could not have been the writer of the Torah [first 5 books of the bible] but the Torah must have been written after the captivity of Israel [around the 6th century B.C.E.] and the returning Jews to their homeland basically made up the whole thing in order to give a sense of community and purpose to the down trodden Jews. The same idea was developed about the New Testament and the gospels- these same critics said the gospels were really written by later authors- who made up most of the stories in order to give a sense of continuity to the developing nascent church- though these critics thought the New Testament still had ‘religious value’ yet the historical truth is absent [thus the name historical critical method].Now- what about this John? First- over the years both of these theories- as interesting as they are- were in fact proven to have been not true. How? Well- the story s a little too long for this post- but basically as the field of archaeology and historical studies developed- the critics had less ground to stand on- not more. When I recently read the Popes book- he deals with this subject a lot- and he skillfully and accurately refutes it- I mentioned how at times the Pope was even funny. The Pope outlines the theory [about the gospels being a fabrication- written by some unknown men at a later date] and the Pope asks Bultmann ‘and just how do you explain the idea that these unknown authors wrote the most valuable writings of the day- books that have influenced the entire world- written at a real time with other real historical people living at the time- and yet they were able to carry out this elaborate hoax- while never being detected by anyone who also lived during that time’ in essence [I’m paraphrasing Benedict] the theory actually has no proof- if your going to challenge the historicity of the gospels- writings that do claim historical accuracy- written by men who we know did indeed live in the 1st century- whose historical accuracy has never been seriously challenged for centuries- if you come up with a theory 1900years after the fact- then you can’t attribute your theory to a bunch of anonymous men- who supposedly lived at the same time- and brilliantly carried out the most elaborate hoax in the history of the world- and no one knows who these geniuses are! Benedict is correct in his critique of the critics. Basically these theories- while adding something to the whole debate- as a whole do not stand the same test of historical examination that they want to apply to the bible. And if the gospels are accurate [which they have been proven to be] Jesus himself speaks about the Torah [the first 5 books] quite a lot- he speaks saying ‘Moses said this’ and attributes the books to Mosaic authorship- talks of ‘Noah’s day’ speaks of God creating man in the beginning [Genesis]- Jesus himself testifies to the historical accuracy of the Old Testament- so if we have proof that the gospels are historically accurate- then according to Jesus- the history of the Old Testament is also historically true- See? When I read Hitchens- he has no depth at all in this debate- he seems to have simply read one side- and dished it out to his readers- giving them old arguments against the faith that have been disproven for years. It’s like the guy who said ‘hey- did you hear the news? We have found out that Shakespeare really didn’t write the tremendous works that are attributed to him’ O really- then who wrote them ‘another guy named Shakespeare’.

 

[1586] FREUD-NIETZSCHE AND MARX- Today I need to do a little more on our study of Modernity [the thinkers who have influenced Western culture/thought from the 1700’s- 2000’s]. At this time I have 3 separate studies I have started on-line; Classics of literature, GreatChristianthinkers of history, and Modernity. As time rolls on- I will gradually post all new studies once a year in a monthly post [most of the time it will be February] and as I update them you can read the most recent ones from the most recent years.

 

Okay- I am skipping a bunch of stuff to jump into the thinkers who represent the most popular forms of atheism- Marx, Nietzsche and Freud. But first we need to take a look at Ludwig Feuerbach. L.F. [Ludwig Feuerbach] laid the groundwork for these other more famous rejecters of God and Christianity. During the enlightenment period it was rare for the critics of religion to hold an outright atheistic view- men like Hume and Voltaire- though truecritics of the church- did not come out openly and deny the existence of God. It was also difficult [impossible?] to holdprofessorships in the universities if you were a doubter of God. Both Hume and Voltaire did not hold positions. F.S. was Hegelian in a way [he followed Hegel’s idea that ‘God’ comes to self consciousness thru the development of humanity] but F.S. was a Materialist- Hegel was an Idealist. Remember- idealism is the philosophical system that sees reality existing in forms/ideas first- then later comes the material thing. The great ancient philosophers- Socrates, Plato and Aristotle were all Idealists. F.S. espoused the idea that reality starts with the material existence of man first- and thru religion man ‘projects’ the idea of God/spirit into society- and as man and Christianity develop [all good things for F.S.] that the ultimate truth that we learn on this journey is that man is really all there is- his ‘phase’ of God and religion were simply necessary stages for man to arrive at thisself conscious state in which he finally realizes that man is all there is- God was a ‘crutch’- a needed one- but never the less simply a projection of mans mind until he came to full maturity. For F.S. ‘theology [the study of God] is anthropology’ [the study of man]. So in this sense he follows Hegel- the development of man and society is the development of God- but Hegelstarts with spirit projecting ‘himself’ into creation- and F.S. starts with man/matter first- and man projects this idea of God/spirit as a secondary reality. The philosopher Paul Ricoeur describes F.S. and his disciples as holding to a system of belief called ‘the hermeneutics of suspicion’. This meaning that religion and God are not just things that seem to be irrational [according to certain enlightenment critics] but that religion itself is a mask that adds to the suffering of man- that man is under the dominion of false ideas- ideas that have been developed by those who want power over others- and these taskmasters use religion as a tool to oppress the ignorant masses. This idea will come to full bloom in the mind of Marx. Marx referred to religion as a ‘false consciousness’ that keptman in servitude to others who ruled over them- and religion itself was the tool that kept these ignorant masses in check. Nietzsche thought religion had its roots in weakness and sickness- and that the most decadent used it to control those who were actually more moral than the leaders. Freud saw religion as an effect of repression and the actual cause of mental conflict and guilt- he blamed religion for all the psychosis that man is afflicted with in life. The next few posts in this study [whenever I get to them?] I will try and develop all 3 of these famous thinkers ideas- show the errors in their own thinking- and the aftermath of generations who have tried/fleshed out their philosophies- and have found them dreadfully lacking in the end.

 

[1587] OVERVIEW-  Lets over view a little today- in the last post I mentioned how we will be getting into Marx, Freud and Nietzsche in the coming months- yet I have so many things going on at this time that just in case I never get to them I want to lay out some stuff. First, most challenges to the Christian faith/God- have come from the point of view that said ‘yes- we believe that there is some being out there- God- but we challenge the purveyors of religion and how man has used religion to control- manipulate the masses’. It was not until the rise of these men that the popular approach of ‘no God’ would take a foothold in the minds of many unsuspecting ‘masses’. Before we delve into the ideas and contradictions of these men- let me explain why most thinkers of the Enlightenment did not take the atheistic approach- and instead opted for some form of Deism/Theism. The original debate of ‘where did everything come from’ did not start during the Enlightenment- it dates back as far as 4-5 centuries before Christ- the question is obviously older- but you can read the debate taking place in the great minds of the Greek philosophers; Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Though the idea of God in the minds of these Greek thinkers was not the same definition that Christianity would hold to- yet they did believe in some type of being who for the most part was what we would think of as God- they referred to him as The Prime Mover- a term that the great Catholic thinker Thomas Aquinas would use in the 13th century as he too argued for the existence of God. Okay- the Greeks taught that the universe/cosmos always existed- and there was an initiator who started the ball rolling [motion]. Their ideas about how the solar system worked were primitive- the famous idea espoused by Ptolemy had a sort of crystalline sphere surrounding the earth and the stars and planets were ‘stuck’ to this shield and as the sphere rotated- that’s what caused the heavens to change. Obviously the breakthroughs in cosmology that occurred under Copernicus and Galileo would bring us into a more perfect idea of how everything functions- yet the Ptolemaic view prevailed for centuries. Now- over the centuries those who began to challenge the church- they would hold to a view that while it is obvious that some Divine being exists [yes- very obvious- get to it in a moment] – yet they were not sure about the existence of the universe- did it always exist like the Greek philosophers said- or did the universe- and all things- have a beginning point? It is important to realize that those who would later on [18th– 20th centuries] challenge the actual existence of God- these very intelligent atheists [not joking] understood that if modern science ever taught a view that said ‘there was a point in time where nothing existed’ these men realized if this were true- then the gig would be up- if there was a time where nothing existed- not even God- they knew beyond all doubt that you would have nothing today. In my view these atheists were the smartest. Yet the breakthroughs in Physics during the era of Einstein did finally prove- beyond all doubt- that there was a time in the past where Time, Matter, Space- that all things did indeed have a starting point. This scientific fact [not religious fact] is absolute- beyond all doubt- irrefutable proof that God does indeed exist- and that he does possess all the attributes ascribed to him by Christian theology. If there was a time where nothing existed [not even God] then you would have nothing today- that’s fact- not belief. So- this is the way the world has debated about the subject for thousands of years- and for the recent theories to try and go back to the idea that the cosmos always existed- well that’s stone age thinking- that’s a rejection of what is commonly referred to as Big Bang cosmology- and no serious thinker rejects Einstein’s theories any more. So- where does that leave us? As we get into the many ideas people have come up with about God- religion- etc. we want to give the critics their chance to make the case- I have been reading [and refuting] Christopher Hitchens book these last few weeks [God is not great- Hitchens is a famous atheist] and I’m giving him a fair hearing- but not going easy on his blunders as well. A while back I got into a debate on a scientific type site- it was Christian in nature- but as I read the feed I realized there were a bunch of scientistsgoing at it- smart men- some on the side of faith- others against it. I added [hesitantly!] my 2 cents worth. At one point- one of the scientists made a major blunder in logic while making his case that there is no God- I wasn’t too mean [heck- he was mocking Christians- I had to be a little mean] and as I posted my correction- proving him to be wrong- not in my area of faith- but in his area of science- he left the debate and never came back. As I checked the posts the next day- I saw another scientist anonymously posted a comment- agreeing with me, about a scientific fact- and admitting that his friend was indeed wrong. The point? It is too easy in this debate to think ‘surely these men must be right- after all they wouldn’t be so popular if they were wrong’- the fact is- this debate is not new, and yes- there are many popular writers/thinkers who are teaching an atheistic view- and these guys are making major mistakes in logic, fact, even in their own fields- they have been proven wrong- time and time again. So for those who are fans of the thinkers I will be refuting down the road- keep an open mind- don’t assume that these men are beyond fault- major fault in my view- and realize that the most prevalent idea espoused by the atheistic thinkers today- has indeed been proven false. You cannot get something from nothing- if there were a time where nothing existed- then nothing would exist today.

 

[1588] THE JEWISH CONTRIBUTION TO MODERNITY- Before I jump too far ahead in our study of Modernity- let me try and do a few posts on the contribution that Jewish thinkers added to the conversation. Obviously the influence from Christian thinkers [or those who came from a Christian background] played the majority role in forming the boundaries of philosophical and theological thinking in the Modern period- yet there were a few notable Jewish thinkers who also made some good contributions. Moses Mendelssohn interpreted Judaism thru a rational/modern lens and played the role of liberal theologian- much like the liberal Christian scholars who were attempting to emphasize the universality of religion and focusing less on the idea of exclusiveness. The 19th– 20th century thinker- Hermann Cohen- saw Judaism in terms of a universal ethical humanism- later on he returned to a more particularistic view- stressing the concepts of sin and salvation and how universal ethics by themselves were not able to address these issues apart from a particular religious revelation.Certain schools of theologians view  the return of the Jews- spoken about in the Old Testament- to their homeland in the 6th century B.C. as the true beginning of Jewish history and thought- they hold to the liberal view that the Torah was written at this time [as opposed to around 1100 B.C. by Moses] and that this era marked the phase of 2nd temple Judaism. I too view the period from the return from captivity in the 6th century B.C. as a sort of ‘2nd temple Judaism’ yet I reject the idea that the Torah was written at that time- I hold to the conservative view that Moses wrote most of the first 5 books of the Old Testament. Having said that- after the Jews returned to their homeland [6th century B.C.] they would reinstitute temple worship and eventually Herod [Roman ruler] would rebuild the temple and the 1st century Jews would regulate their lives round the temple and it’s rituals- Priests played a major role in religious/political life. In 66A.D. the Jews rebelled against Roman dominance-and in A.D. 70 Rome destroyed the temple under Titus [the military commander] and the Jews would lose the central religious location that structuredtheir lives for centuries. Eventually Rabbi’s-the interpreters of the law- would play the major role in shaping the religious thought of the Jewish people. As time progressed, society eventually asked the question- which came to be known as ‘the Jewish question’- how should Jewish people be seen? Those living in France and Germany- were they to be accepted as Jews- with a distinct ethnic/religious culture- or should they be seen as German- French citizens? Recently- a famous female journalist [Helen Thomas] made headlines when a u-tube video came out- she was commenting on the ‘Jewish question’ and said the Jews ‘need to get the hell out of Palestine and return to their home countries’ when asked ‘what home countries’ she said Germany and France- obviously theJewish question still lives in the minds of certain people. In the 17th century you had the development of a Jewish form of Pietism- called Hasidism. And in the 19th century Judaism would split into 3 distinct groups- Conservative, Reform and Orthodox. In the late 19th century you would have the rise of Zionism [the homeland question once again] and eventually the AmericanEvangelical community would take up the cause of Zionism and it would become a major plank in the Dispensational theology of the AmericanProtestant church. Though Zionism [the right of the Jews to once again posses their homeland] started as a purely political concern- over time it became ‘Christianized’ and would become the causecélèbrefor many T.V. evangelists of the current day [John Hagee- just to name one].

 

 

About ccoutreach87

my sites- www.corpuschristioutreachministries.blogspot.com- ccoutreach87.wordpress.com- facebook.com/john.chiarello.5

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