Saturday, April 30, 2011

Matthew 5:13-16

You are the salt of the earth.  But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?  It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.  You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put in under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

These two metaphors, used to describe Jesus' disciples, are meant for making one basic point, or their meanings are atleast connected to each other.  The first one Jesus uses, the salt metaphor, is meant to make the point that the disciples must flavor the world in a good way.  The disciples must be virtuous.  There must be wisdom, passion, strength, humility, love and compassion, as well as many other good things.  In other words, the character of the disciples must reflect the character of Jesus.  If it is not so, then they will be "thrown out and trampled by men".  Its almost literal.  If a person does not have this solid character, or saltiness, then no one is going to respect them.  And since a disciple of Christ is a representative of Christ, we must represent well.

The second metaphor is saying almost the same thing.  The disciples are light, and as we all know, light is a good thing.  Without light we would all be wandering around completely lost and confused.  In fact, life would be impossible.  So Jesus commands his disciples to share their light, to do good deeds.  Why?  So that the world would see them and praise the Father in heaven.  A disciple of Christ should not be shy about being righteous.  We should not hide our good traits, but let them show clearly in good actions.

Now a person may wonder: doesn't this contradict some of Jesus' other teachings, like say Matthew 6:1 (also the sermon on the mount)?  It may seem at first like a contradiction, but its actually a paradox.  With all paradoxes in the Bible we must dig deeper and find the reason for it.  With these two teachings its all about motive.  The reason for letting people see your righteous deeds, and thus your righteous character, is so that God would be glorified.  But Jesus warns us not to do our 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by men.  The reason is because there are some that seek glory for themselves.  The Pharisees and teachers of the law were much like this, and there's a good chance Jesus was thinking of them when he said those words.  Whenever we do any good deed, whether people know about it or not, we must do it to please God and bring God glory.  It is not something we should do so that others would say 'Here is a good man'.  Its something we should do so that others would say 'Praise God!'

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bible Symbolism

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  Genesis 1:27

It is a very important fact that God created man in His own image.  It shows that there is a unique connection between man and God, even from birth.

Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit."  John 3:5-6

Jesus points out that there are two kinds of birth, one physical and one spiritual.  Being born physically obviously makes a person human.  Being born spiritually makes a person holy, or part of the Holy Church.

Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.  The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man."  For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.  Genesis 2:22-24

This is the creation of woman.  She was formed from man, and just as it says, when the two become married they become "one flesh".  From one and returning into one.  Also, as you can see from the sequence in Gen 1:27, God made man and woman, starting with man and then woman.

Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!  For the wedding of the Lamb has come and his bride has made herself ready.  Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear."  (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)  Revelation 19:7-8

The Church is pictured as the Bride of Christ.

The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.  So it is with Christ.  1Corinthians 12:12

The Church is pictured as the Body of Christ.  The Bride of Christ is married to Christ and the two become one flesh, just as what is written about a man and his wife (Gen 2:24).

Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.  1Corinthians 11:3

Man is given authority over woman, just as Christ is given authority over man, or the Church.  Thus the picture of man and wife, with man as the head of his wife, is a reflection of Christ and the Church, with Christ as the head of His Church.

So there are two things we see: the physical and the spiritual.  The physical is the creation of man, the birth of man, and the unification of man and woman (marriage).  The physical is a reflection, or a picture, of the spiritual reality.  We were made by God in creation, which is our physical life, but spiritually we came from Christ, just as Eve came from Adam.  When we are born again we are born of Christ, which means we came from Him.  We are also united with Christ, just as Eve was united with Adam.  So the spiritual reality, or the meaning of being born again, is that we came from Christ to be united with Christ.

Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.  For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him...."  John 6:53-56

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Alive and Strong

Its far too easy for people to go about a "normal" life.  Through this process of living normal the soul dies slowly.  Its the same stuff every day.  Its stuff that any contemplative man would realize is completely meaningless.  Everything in and of the world is going to pass away, just like the world and every occupant of it.  Break the cycle of monotonous normality!  Find life!  I can speak as someone who has experience, there is life to be found.  A person can have a heart that burns with passion.  A person can be a fearless fighter, with words like a sword and eyes to set mountains on fire.  A person can be strong like titanium and immovable like Mount Everest.  This life and strength can be found in Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the only name by which a man can find life and know the truth, and be filled with joy, passion, love, righteous character, and all other good things.  Jesus Christ truly is the source of the most amazing virtues rising up inside a man.  Where there is life and passion and strength there is the Holy Spirit, from the One True God.

This is a must for anyone professing to be a Christian.  Its far too easy to pretend to be a Christian and not even know what the word means.  Its far too easy to be "normal", sit beside other "normal Christians" in church and not realize the whole place is dead.  Don't do it!  If you have to, be the only one in your church that actually knows what it means to be a Christian and live as one.  Let them say what they want.  They can say you're "self-righteous".  They can call you a Puritan or any other names.  It won't matter because the solid truth is in you, and this truth is weightier than any words of men.  They won't move you one inch.  Stand there and be a Christian!  Be alive and passionate!  Be obsessive and extremely devoted!  There is no book of limitations on these virtues.  If you have to, speak what you know to be true, when you know it needs to be said, even when you're speaking to people with more age than you.  God will accomplish His purpose, and will renew the Church.  The only question is whether you'll be working with Him, or setting on the sidelines to appease the other bench-warmers (pew-warmers).

To avoid this ill fate the answer is very simple.  Get on your knees and beg the Lord to show you grace.  Beg for Him to pour out His Spirit on you, and keep praying every time you think of it.  And mean it.  Then read the Bible so that you will find His answer.  He will show you, just as clear as the morning sun, what the truth is, and what your purpose in life is.  He will fill you with wisdom and everything you need.  Why would you want to be a dead man pretending to live?  Why would you want to have a cold heart, setting inside a normal life, when you can truly live and be extraordinary?  God gives life, and will make anyone who puts their faith in Him to be an extraordinary man or woman.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

From The Early Believers

As always, I must make mention that this is just one argument for the veracity of the Bible.  A person could go about proving the Bible from many different angles, drawing from a mountain of evidence.  I have chosen to take a close look at Luke's accounts, that being the books of Luke and Acts.  And taking into consideration other things we know to be true, I believe there is proof, or in the very least a convincing argument, that these books are true and truly describe divine acts.  But I must start by simply pointing out some facts about Luke and Acts.

The first thing anyone would notice about the Bible, if that person cared enough about their soul to actually read it, would be that this book is historical in nature.  The books, particularly the Gospels, describe historical events with great detail.  They do not look one bit like the product of legend or fictional pieces.  They are not vague nor enigmatic nor disconnected from the time and place.  The books are detailed, and include the names of many places and people.  Of the New Testament books, two stand out as containing a particularly large number of historical details.  Luke, the writer of Luke and Acts, is called the physician but also the historian, because his accounts contain so many historical details.  We can be almost certain that his two books are truly his books; that they have the same writer.  We know that because the Greek vocabulary and literary style is identical.  On top of that, Luke addresses both to 'most excellent Theophilus'.  Acts is really meant to be a sequel to Luke.  So on with it.

Here is a sampling of the historical details in Luke's books.  Luke names 13 historical figures, excluding Jesus, in the first three chapters of Luke.  Herod the Great, Quirinius, Caesar Augustus, Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, Philip tetrarch of Iturea, Traconitis, Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, high priests Annas and Caiaphas, and John the Baptist, son of Zechariah.  Eleven of these names have been confirmed by non-Christian sources, either through archaeology or the accounts of secular historians like Josephus.

Luke identifies the time of Jesus' birth as being soon after the census decree by Caesar Augustus, while Quirinius was governor of Syria.  Luke identifies the beginning of John the Baptist's ministry as the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar's reign.  Luke mentions that Jesus was about thirty years old when he was baptized, and thus began his ministry.  So by these reference points, Luke makes it clear at what point in history his account takes place.

Acts contains an immense amount of historical details as well.  The scholar and historian, Colin Hemer, did a study on the book of Acts and found 84 details in the last 16 chapters, which have been confirmed by non-Christian sources.  Its far too many to list here, but I'll mention a few of them.  Without the aid of modern maps, Luke identifies the proper location of: Lycaonia, the river Gangites, Amphilopis and Apollonia, Fair Havens and Lasea, and the islands Caudia and Malta.  Luke also records the correct depths of the water near Malta with soundings taken in chapter 27.  Luke accurately describes the character of cities like: Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth and Ephesus.  And he even names correct ports, as well sea routes suitable with the wind.

So we know that Luke recorded a lot of accurate details, but how does that prove the miracles described in his account?  If you take into consideration the fact that many people in the first century believed the Apostles and became disciples, you come to a remarkable conclusion.  No one would believe a story about a man who did miracles, died and then one day rose back to life, if the story was claimed to take place in their own lifetime, in their own locality and didn't actually happen.

How do we know people believed the Apostles?  One of the best pieces of evidence for the spread of Christianity in the first century is a letter from Pliny the Younger to emperor Trajan.  The letter can be found here (  Pliny the Younger was the governor of Pontus in the province of Bithynia.  That's on the coast of the Black Sea in north central Asia Minor, about a thousand miles from Jerusalem.  The letter was written sometime between 111ad and 113ad, and in it he describes some as having been Christians 25 years ago.  This is strong evidence that by the end of the first century, only 70 years after Jesus' death and resurrection, Christianity had spread throughout the Empire.

So we know, based on the times given in Luke's account, that the events of Jesus' ministry, his death and resurrection took place about 30-33ad.  And we know, based on Pliny's letter and from writings of church fathers, that those events, as well as Jesus' death and resurrection, were believed by many people in the same century and location they occurred in.  We know, from the sheer number of historically accurate details and overall consistency, that Luke and Acts could not have been the product of legendary development.  And we now know, by use of simple logic, that his works could not have been made-up fiction.

What do I mean by that?  Well, suppose I were to make up a story of extraordinary events, and then place this story at a certain time and a certain location.  And suppose its location were nearby (think of any place near you), and I claimed that it took place right around 1965.  On top of that, I put in many testable details.  Do you think anyone would believe this made-up story?  Do you think it would make any difference if it was a group of four people conspiring to do the same thing?  Of course not.  All legendary stories are the product of many years, at least two centuries, of legendary development.  Even then, there has never been any legend to come close to being as extraordinary as the Passion of the Christ.  There are 35 miracles in Acts alone, and yet, even with a testable account full of details, people believed that these things really happened.  Anyone who lived in or near Jerusalem could go and see these locations.  They could talk to people who either did or didn't see these miraculous events.  If Jesus never existed, they would have heard plenty of people say he never existed.  If the triumphal entry never happen, there would be plenty of people saying it never happened.  If Jesus had not risen from the dead, the opponents of Christianity would have found his body.  If the stories about him were false, then there would not have been anything for the proponents to build off of.  And beyond that, there wouldn't have been any motive to.  Read the letter.  Christians were being killed for being Christians.  Why would these people propagate a false story with the threat of being killed for it?  There is simply no logical basis for saying that the New Testament books were either made-up or legends.  The facts just do not support either of those hypotheses, which leaves only one other possibility.

Sleeping Your Way To Hell

The ploys of Satan are not obvious.  Satan very much tries to not be obvious.  The more subtle he can be while infesting your life, the better for him.  For this reason, some things that seem like obvious sins, which you have been taught are sins ever since birth, are the least of sins.  The big sins, the ones that completely destroy a person's soul, are much less obvious.  These are not the sins that you'll often hear talked about in church.  In fact, it seems that you won't hear much said about hell in church these days.  That's just what Satan wants - ignorance.

Many people only have vague ideas about metaphysics.  They might believe in heaven.  They might, just rarely, talk about heaven.  They might believe in doggy heaven, and be more inclined to talk about that.  But do people really know what heaven is?  Why is it that its not often you hear someone mention the New Jerusalem?  And if that rare person did, he may or may not know how many gates it has.  What is it that a normal person would hear in a normal conversation?  Its certainly not the important issues.  You don't hear about heaven or hell or much talk about Bible passages, but these are the most important ideas to confront humans.  We all die; everyone knows that.  But most people live as if death does not exist.  Most people live as if the afterlife is completely meaningless.  They talk about the football game.  They talk about their job.  They talk about the latest gossip, or a purchased item.  Then, if someone dies, there might be some consideration of the afterlife, but usually that's just to mention that their beloved is in heaven.  So many people want to believe that they'll go to heaven, but then live like heaven means nothing to them.

I call it 'sleeping your way to hell'.  It seems to be one of Satan's most effective vices.  Surely Satan loves it when people only think of material things.  When the distractions and worries of life keep someone from ever producing good fruit for the kingdom of God.  The lingo is even found in churches.  'In the name of peace, lets not argue over these issues'.  Or 'We shouldn't say anything to upset someone'.  These statements are only meant for ignoring or obscuring the important issues.  The Bible is important enough to argue over!  The truth is something that must be sought for and thought about, and no one should shy away from speaking an important truth, even when its going to offend someone.

The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.  Matthew 13:22

A Fish's Four-Drachma Coin

After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked, "Doesn't your teacher pay the temple tax?" "Yes, he does," he replied. When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. "What do you think, Simon?" he asked. "From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes - from their own sons or from others?" "From others," Peter answered. "Then the sons are exempt," Jesus said to him. "But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours." Matthew 17:24-27

What's the point Jesus was making? When he asked Peter who the kings collect taxes from, and when he replied that the sons are exempt, he was saying that it was not necessary for them to pay the temple tax. The temple is representative of his Father's kingdom on earth, and so Jesus and his disciples were exempt from paying any taxes to the king, his Father. However, it was not Jesus' custom to disrespect the authorities unless he had good reason to. So he had Peter fish out a four-drachma coin as if its no big deal.

That brings us to another interesting point about this passage. Jesus was never concerned about having enough money or food or clothing, etc. The only thing Jesus concerned himself with was his mission, his message, and pleasing his Father. And he told his followers not to be concerned about material things either (Mat 6:25-34). I imagine Jesus as someone who walked around with a supreme knowledge of what he was doing, and not even giving a single thought to the trivial things of the world. When there were thousands of hungry people to feed he fed them with 5 loaves and 2 fish. When he wanted to get across the sea he told the disciples to go ahead on boat and he came walking across the water. And here, when he wants to pay the temple tax he gathers the coin from a fish's mouth. It also reminds me of the fig tree (Mat 21:18-19). And Jesus' disciples picking heads of grain (Mk 2:23). Everywhere that Jesus and his disciples went they would gather from the area around them. Sometimes they would live off of the provision of women that accompanied them. But either way, they were not planning their next meal or where they would sleep. These things were not important to Jesus.

Finally I want to make mention of just how cool this is. In order to get the tax money he has Peter catch a fish which has a four-drachma coin in its mouth. How bizarre. I'm sure there were plenty of ways Jesus could have obtained a four-drachma coin, but he chose to do it that way. I guess that's just God being creative. Maybe you have an idea for why he chose to do it that way?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Alot to Lose; Alot to Gain

The Christian mandate is total surrender.  Unless you have given the Lord your entire life - all your time, ability, money,etc - you cannot rightly call yourself a Christian.  You could pretend to be a Christian, just as many people do, but what good is that?  Who are you trying to impress, and what is their importance?  Do not all people die?  But a Christian has only one thing in mind: to please God.  It means to give everything over to Him.  'No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God'.  Our Lord's standard is very high.  Some will think this is impossible, and with man it certainly is, but what is impossible for man is possible for God.  Some will try to explain it away, saying something like 'Jesus was just exaggerating', but I wonder if they'll call Jesus a liar to His holy face.  The Christian response to this revelation, to the realization that Christianity demands obsession, is to believe.  The response of faith when faced with an overwhelming task is to pray.  The voice of wisdom tells us to start somewhere.  The Church of Jesus Christ will accept anyone just as they are, but She will not let any of Her members stay as they are.  Being a Christian means being changed, completely changed.  Start somewhere.  Start with something that you know you can do.  Pray.  Read your Bible as often as you can.  Help the helpless as much as you can.  Put forth effort.  Prayer and effort really are the keys to success.

But why?  Why would anyone give up everything and do many things just to be persecuted and hated by the world?  What's the point?  Heaven.  Being with God for eternity, that's the point.  'But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.'  To accept Jesus you must deny yourself, but gaining Jesus is beyond words - I'll do my best.  Some people, mystics mostly, have had the tendency to deny heaven or treasure or any kind of rewards.  They say that the only reward we should seek is Jesus Himself.  I think they are really missing something here.  I think they quite often, if not always, have no idea who Jesus is.  Jesus is the Son of God.  'If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!'  The Lord gives generously - 100 times on earth and eternal life in heaven.  I can't possibly imagine, much less describe, what that is.  I do know that the rewards from God are great and I want them!  I may sound selfish but so be it.  I won't lie, it was my desire to enter heaven and avoid hell that drove me to accept Jesus.  And that's ok.  The mystics would rather be sentimental about some kind of grand romance between man and God, and that a man must love God only and not heaven or anything from God.  They use language that Jesus never used to express the 'romance' of a 'relationship' with the Lord.  The thing they miss is that God is not our next door neighbor.  Man and God are separated even at this moment.  The guests of the wedding feast must come in the proper attire.  There must be life before anyone can be in a relationship.  You see, there are all these other things that must happen before we are finally reunited with our Creator and the real relationship begins.  These are the things that Jesus talked about - life, love, liberty, wisdom, obedience, fruits of the Spirit, etc etc.  These are the rewards God gives, or at least a taste of the rewards God gives.  Our God is our Father who gives gifts, rewards and life abundant.  Its good.  Its really really good.  Taste and see that the Lord is good.

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.  What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?  Mark 8:35-36

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Internet is The Next Printing Press

Gutenberg's invention of the 1430s, the printing press, launched a revolution in thought. For the first time in history literature could be manufactured cheap enough for the middle classes to own. The Enlightenment and the Protestant Reformation both owe their occurrence to the printing press. People like Martin Luther, John Smyth, and Menno Simons were able to read the Bible and discover that many of the official Catholic Church practices and beliefs were wrong. Today we have a recent invention that will revolutionize the world as much as the printing press did then: the internet. There are many applications and implications of it, but what interests me most is what impact the internet will have on the Church of Christ Jesus.

For the first time in history people from any part of the world can communicate with other people in any other part of the world.  For the Church this means a number of things. First, it means that the Church will likely gravitate towards unity. When Christians connect with other Christians on sites like Facebook and Twitter it's not much of a concern for them what denomination someone is. The only concern, and so it should be, is if the person is truly a follower of Christ. Second, it means that anyone can do evangelism all over the world with only a computer and a connection. Before there were only two real ways to do evangelism - go door to door or become a missionary. Someone with a job and family would find it hard to reach the unreached people (though talking to your neighbor is a fine thing to do). Now the internet has thrown that reality upside down. Lastly, the internet means that average Bible reading Christians can disciple other average Bible reading Christians. This isn't something that couldn't happen before, but now it's enhanced by the internet. Someone wanting to know the truth about God and doctrine can gather many different perspectives, not just their pastor's, and can use the Bible to sort out the truth. This lowers the influence of the establishment (seminaries, pastors, church leaders, etc), and raises the influence of everyday Bible study, which I believe is a good thing. I believe there is a growing wave of revival in Christianity, and it's in large part due to the impact the internet is having. Of course all the happenings of the world are part of God's plan. So let us thank God for this gift and use it as best we can.


About Me

Unimpressive in person. But always praying that these letters I write will be weighty and forceful. I serve the Almighty as a servant of Christ. I strive to conquer hearts and minds with the word of God. I am nothing, but the Holy Spirit living inside me is omnipotent. By Him I can run and not grow weary, or walk and not be faint. All glory and honor be to God and to Jesus the Christ.