Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Self-defense

The question I have been asking myself lately is: do I defend my actions?

I am starting to live fearing the words of God:

"Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart."
-Proverbs 21:2

The concept here is that even when we act right, if people do not like what we say and do, do we have a biblical right to defend ourselves? Do we say "I am right because the bible says this..."?

Well, lets look at the fruits of God's spirit (Galatians 5:22-23): Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. It says nothing about defending ourselves. In fact, lets look at the example in Paul

"Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved."
-2 Cor 12:19



Paul so often did not defend himself. I assume that was a lesson he took from Christ. Christ, so often, on Calvary's road, did not seem to speak up when He could have. I wince when I read Pilot asking Jesus "What is truth?" (John 18:38). Christ should have said "Me! You blind FOOL!" But He did not. Why?

So I would say we should not make a self-defense. If the core of the gospel is humility, which it clearly is, then why should I be right in the eyes of men? From Genesis 1:1 humility is the core aspect of reading scripture: God did it. We need humility when we read the bible, otherwise we put ourselves over God's word. I do not love the law of God because it just so happens to suite me, I love it because I find out that I am a wicked sinner. I praise God not because of the law, but because He sent His Son to pay the burden I cannot bear!

But that means I must live "coram Deo" (before God). Not before men. It also relates to not trusting God's sovereignty. God is in control, He will not permit a word to come from your lips unless it will maximize His glory in the end. So when we say the wrong thing, we take it as correction. When we say the right thing, we praise God for showing His work in us.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Bible complaints

I have recently been challenged by someone to carefully consider my beliefs in scripture. This is an awesome challenge for me as it always provides fuel for thought. Objections are those things that do not make me cringe in fear, but rather cause me to go to our Fathers word, the bible.

There are three elements to this complaint, all supported in scripture itself. What surprises me is that this person seems to be the anti-evangelist. They want to, using scripture, prove that I should not follow scripture. I would have it no other way.

"Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life! 41 Let your steadfast love come to me, O LORD, your salvation according to your promise; 42 then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me, for I trust in your word. 43 And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your rules."
- Psalms 119:40 - 43

There are many other difficult verses I want to cover and these are easy practice.

Firstly, did men write the bible? Of course they did. But they did so under divine inspiration. 2 Timothy 3:16 makes that clear. Secondly, the faith I have is in Christ alone. There is no other real God, nor is there any other worthy God. What I mean by that is: if, in eternity, I am proved wrong, I will: happily burn in (whoever's) hell for believing that my God is Christ, for all of Him. There has to be this element to faith. Faith cannot exist with proof. Since faith is what I must have, then faith is what I have.

To start off the argument I would like to say that my theology may be summarized in two very simple words: 'God first'. I have a high view of scripture and in all things God is sovereign. God is true because that is who He is, not because there is truth. What I mean is that if God is gentle, if He smites someone down, He is still gentle and therefore that was a gentle God. If this were not the case, He would not be God. So when the bible says that God is gentle, yet orders the death of someone, it is for His glory and His purpose. God needs no defender for His actions. There is a beautiful quote of what should be the view of scripture:

"The debate over inerrancy frequently comes down to choosing whether or not to tolerate such problems as 'unanswered questions' or to transfer them to the category of 'demonstrated problems.' Often that decision reflects ones internal attitude toward Scripture and towards critical methods. If Scripture is accepted as the inspired word of God, as the 'standard that sets the standard,' one will be reluctant to charge it with error - since to do so one must have some other, perhaps higher, norm by which to evaluate Scripture."1

With the basis stated, lets get started.

I am not sure what the exactly the first 'complaint' is but let us look at a particularly disturbing verse:

"No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the LORD"

This seems to me the hardest of the three. What does 'assembly' mean here? Does it mean that if a man's organ is removed (against his will, or by accident) he cannot enter heaven? Or does it mean that he cannot be a priest (or hold some office) in the old testiment temple? To be serious, the context would not suggest the former. In the very next verse, it says that a bastard child may not enter into the assembly. Does God condemn people because of their parents? I praise Him by saying NAY! Even the old testiment teaches that! See Ezekiel 18. The interpretive problem here is context. In all these verses, God is protecting the purity of His people. These verses do not speak of salvation, just old testiment rules. What is the application of this verse today? God cares who is in church office.

The second complaint (at least it is defined) is that the bible was written as "population control." This amuses me as those who were writing the bible would have, I assume, laughed in the face of someone who said that, had they not been so humble. Can you imagine telling a guy locked up in jail, after being beaten for preaching, that all he was interested in was population control? Paul got 39 lashes five times for preaching the gospel (2 Corinthians 11:24). People were dying because of the word of God. The 'population control' thing is Catholic and since they do not believe in contraceptives, they may even find this rather humorous.

Also the bible does not say it should be used as governmental rule. I was thinking this very morning how great it would be if everyone was forced to follow Christian rules, because South Africa could surely use it. However, as a baptist, I believe in the separation of Church and state. If you do not believe the bible I cannot force it on you. Only God can provide the repentance necessary (2 Timothy 2:25).

With that in mind lets look at the 'suppoting' verse:

" If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church"
- 1 Corinthians 14:35

I think the lady is more complaining about 'woman control' rather than 'population control.' Yes, the bible does teach this. But again your issue is context.

"the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says."
- 1 Corinthians 14:34

The Law said it. This is no new teaching. In fact all that is denied here is a little doctrine of original sin.

To the woman he said, "I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you."

That is why women must be silent in churches. This is obviously during preaching or something like that, not as legalistic as 'when they walk through the doors.' They are also not permitted to be preachers, for exactly the same reason (1 Timothy 2:12 - 15).

And finally, the last complaint. A question of old testiment law.

"Six days work shall be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death."
- Exodus 35:2

So what now? I must kill people in the name of the Lord for working on the sabbath. Well, Jesus said he came to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17). What did He do? He died on the cross. He bore the punishment of sins. So we don't have to. It's the same reason we don't sacrifice animals anymore. Jesus is the sacrifice that ended sacrifices. What is the application of the verse today? 1. God is in favour of the death penalty. 2. He takes the sabbath (His holy day for His people) seriously. Plus the new testiment changes the view, a part of the new covenant:

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself."
-Romans 14:5-7

God is telling us that we are now free in Him. You'll find many old testiment laws, including the golden rule, in the new testiment. Some things fall away, but not in a sense that they are forgotten.

Praise be to God for His most awesome word of truth!

1 "The Origin of the Bible", by F.F. Bruce, J.I. Packer, Philip Comfort and Carl F.H. Henry, Tyndale House Publishers, 2003

To be or not to be, that is the question

I recently discussed this elsewhere and remembered I wanted to do it for this blog, so here it is.

Who feels like some good old fashioned philosophy?1

I have not studied philosophy or theology, these are just some ideas that I have come up with while talking to both groups, as well as my studies in AI.

Basically, as far as my feeble understanding goes, there are three categories under which proof for God may be examined:
1. Internal gestation
2. External examination
3. Proof by negation

So lets look at number 1: Internal gestation. In this area I have seen only one argument so far, with not so many spin-offs. The ontological argument for God (SEP - "Ontological arguments") - are "arguments, for the conclusion that God exists, from premises which are supposed to derive from some source other than observation of the world — e.g., from reason alone. In other words, ontological arguments are arguments from nothing but analytic, a priori and necessary premises to the conclusion that God exists."

That sounds great - determining the existence of God by reason alone! I'm so clever because I knew God was there without anything other than myself! This is an un-Christian attitude because Romans 3:11 clearly says

"no one understands; no one seeks for God."
-Romans 3:11

Also the foundation of this argument is that belief itself creates the being. Rene Descartes tried this one "I think, therefore I am" to give himself assurance of his own existence. However it was actually a lesson in unfaithfulness. It stems from "Since I know that I doubt my existence, I must exist."

Also, what is the focal point of the argument? What a shock... it's man centered: "I know God exists because I can reason and I can doubt and I can..." - hmmmm, you'd think we wouldn't need a Saviour.

2. The external examination option.
The only way truth can be gathered is in this manner. As from the argument above, truth can not be determined from within us. The sad thing is that I wonder how many "Christians" get this. There is no truth in us. There is only truth in God. That is WHY He gave us the bible, that truth may be determined. 2 Cor 3:5 displays this well

"Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God."
-2 Corinthians 3:5

We are sufficient ONLY in God. God must then be external (or a separated being) in relation to us. And praise Him that He is the ONLY being to which truth is INTERNAL.

"I am the way the truth and the life"
-John 14:6



This can make sense to any man. If there is a being to which truth is not internal, that being is NOT God. God can only be the being that knows everything, can do anything. Our question is not "is there a God?" Rather it is "which God?" On a side note - only God can reveal Himself to others. There is no need for strife or anger towards sinners. We would be so much worse if we were not so graciously saved.

So from Romans 1 we can see that he can be seen from the world around us. Arguments that follow these lines are the teleological argument (one is known to anti-evolutionists as "Payleys watch"). There are many others like this.



We have to look at the scientific method. We can only perceive what is in our immediate reality. We cannot "prove" God (specfically Christ) by our surroundings. In addition we cannot exit our realm without being absurd.

"But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong"
-1 Corinthians 1:27

So when the world laughs at us you know how we are to react? In humility! Isn't it amazing that God is so logical in His word?

3. The proof by negation or contradiction.
I think this argument can fit into both categories. We can shift the burden of proof by arguing that God's non-existence must be proved. This "Kent-Hovind" style of argument is unfortunately hurtful and unhelpful. You cannot prove the non-existence of anything. But as Christians we can rejoice. Non-existence CANNOT BE PROVEN. It took me so long to get that, that since God cannot be disproved, I am free to joyful in the Lord. So just as much as I say that God exists no man can logically tell me He does not!

But in all of this, can we "prove" Christ? My honest answer is no. There is no way to argue someone through the gates of heaven. Salvation is the work of Christ and Christ alone. But praise Him that it is, otherwise we would be lost.

Another point I'd like to make is that God is the source of truth. In this we know that we have the MOST right way of dealing with everything in life. No man should be able to disagree with us, if we are able to be perfect. Since God is truth, and if He is for us who can stand against us? Paul I answer a very obvious question: NO ONE!

Also, this may sound off, but my intention is to build you all up: We cannot 'prove' God. Does this cause us distress? Well, sometimes, it can. Since I cannot prove it why should I believe it? Well, what is the core attribute of salvation?

"because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
(10) For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved."
-Romans 10:9-10

Seriously? Romans 10:9-10 is it? Look at this verse, belief is an essential aspect of Christianity.

We have FAITH. What is faith? "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" Hebrews 11:1. Another part of faith is that it does not come from us, it is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). Know that I believe that we are not saved BECAUSE we believe, but rather, we know we are saved because we believe.

So that is my thoughts on the existence of God. Proving is impossible, because then salvation can become by works. It also helps with my understanding of why we don't see miracles and other supernatural things. It is by faith!

Praise the Lord!

1 I are not a philo-fickle person, so I's quite stupid coming to terms wif the write fing to say

Friday, October 26, 2007

My Prayer For Today

Forgive me Lord, for I have sinned.
I took the situations of today and handled them my own way,
I never stood by your council, or kneeled down to pray,
The very opportunities you gave me for growth,
I threw in your face and I neglected your guidance,
A passer-by would never have seen the glory of your grace.

But Lord I thank you, for being with me after.
For revealing my folly and setting me straight,
That even though I sin, I may rejoice in you,
For I can now see that where I lack, in all things,
You are the source of the only good that can be.

God is my strength. God is my righteousness. Though I fail, I know that He will save, He will succeed. When I sin, I see my need for Him. When I triumph, I see His work in me.

-----------------------

This came about because I failed. I started wondering... Why does God allow me to continue to sin? The answer struck me - it is so that I am reminded of how much I need Him. The process of sanctification is so interesting. It does not happen in one night. Sometimes problems we thought were long gone seem to resurface. The reason being, God reminds us of our first need. We must remain reliant on Christ.

The second step is overcoming sin. What can we overcome that we have not identified. When we know we need Christ, and trust Him, then we are in a position that we may overcome? The verse in James does not help if we go half-versim© "resist the devil and he will flee from you." God is so amazing that He does not just leave us in a state of "you, by yourself, MUST." No, instead God tells us the means of resisting the devil:

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you
- James 4:7

What an amazing God we serve. In this passage (not just this verse, the WHOLE CONTEXT) - I suggest reading James - God is telling us the means of overcoming sin.

Praise be to God!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

From good news to bad news

I have been dancing around the subject of correct bible translation. The problem with this issue is that people can be saved out of a very poor translation. How is this so? The truth is not inside the book, at least not completely. How on earth with incorrect translations are these people saved?

Before we go any further, I am not a KJV only guy. I am a person who cannot read or speak a single word of Hebrew or Greek, but I remain a Hebrew and Greek only person. Do you want the inspired words of God, read the copies of the original Hebrew for the old testament and the copies of the original Greek manuscripts for the new testament. Anything else is subject to err. Even the Septuagint, which is a translation.

So what are we supposed to do? The problem is that there is no scriptural example for translations. Oh yes there is. It is so amazing how the word of God can come alive if we are prepared to look for what it says. There is a story of the Ethiopian eunuch, in Acts Chapter 8

27 And he [Philip] arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, 28 Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. 29 Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. 30 And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? 31 And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. 32 The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: 33 In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. 34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. 36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
-Acts 8:27 - 36

There are many important things to notice in this section, probably enough to get a PhD in theology. But what on earth does this story have to do with bible translation? Well, we know that the man was reading "Esaiah." This is the profit Isaiah, we know this by the closeness of the spelling. The reason that they are not spelled the same is that this man is reading a translation. Why else would God entail that the verses be read. The verses he reads are very important as well, especially when it comes to translation.

The first verse is "He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:" it is through this verse we find the context of what the man is reading. In the Hebrew (obviously translated to English) it reads, out of Isaiah 53

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
-Isaiah 53:7

Now this tells us that the translation is good. We do not trust the quotation of Scripture, even when quoted in Scripture, as Scripture. What I mean is we believe this section of Acts because it points us to Isaiah, which is Scripture. What the eunuch was reading means little to us, since we can find it in Isaiah ourselves. So we have to ask, why is it there?

Well the next verse answers that question. The eunuch read "In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth." but what does the next verse in Isaiah say?

He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
-Isaiah 53:8

These passages, although similar, are not the same. The key part is this: "His judgment was taken away." The problem here is that it was not in His humiliation, because He bore the judgment for us in His humiliation. He became sin that had no sin. The translation issue is that it is not consistent.

Is this 'Scripture' right (or correct)? No, the bible is telling us what the eunuch was reading, in one part to show where he was reading from and in the second part to show us it was not entirely correct. This is an indication that translations were not perfect then either.

Finally, it may be seen that regardless of the poor translation of the text, the man was saved. This goes to prove that regardless of the bible, God may use it to His benefit. This does not excuse bad translations, but rather encourages us that as long as there is even a remote interest, God may work through people.

Another point to be made is that the eunuch's heart was prepared for God. Philip did not save this man, God did. God used Philip. When Philip asks "Do you understand what you are reading?" the eunuch does not say "I have need of no man, that to understand is such a thing as I can grasp it with no other man, to the point at which I believe Isaiah to be incorrect." The eunuch responds in humility: "How can I?" Even though the text was incorrect God used it to confound and humble the eunuch, to the point where his heart was prepared for the gospel of Christ.

This brings me to an important point. Can we now rest on the stick of God's sovereignty? Do we say, "A bad translation is better than no translation" and leave people to be utterly confounded? I dare say that some people would, and have, said such things to me. I was accused of taking translations too far when I started giving out ESV's to people who already have bibles, but non-literal translations. "God will work no matter what" is what I get from them.

The irony is that the people who say this to me are those who deny God's sovereignty in salvation. They claim that "we must save ourselves by making a choice that may or may not last eternally" but in the same breath will argue that the bible translation does not matter or that churches need not discipline because "God will work on their hearts." It was for this reason I was such an apostate believer. I cannot grasp this. If man is responsible for his salvation in any part, then it is upon the man during his walk with God to be responsible for getting everything exactly right. This inconsistency drives people mad.

If, however, it is God who can work through whatever circumstance, then the issue of translation does not matter. Sovereignty in all things will go with bad translations. But if God cannot save men because he incapable without the man's consent, then we better make sure people get it exactly right.

The ironic thing is, those who believe God is sovereign are more eager to see people get it right than those who trust themselves for salvation. Those who believe in the total and unbound free will of man could not care less whether he reads one bible or the next. It is not possible that we get it right with any one translation.

God will work through any translation. That does not mean any translation will do. Getting it right is important and this means that we must, with care and diligence, discover what the original author said, in its context. God did not create us to be lazy, but rather to work. From the first day He made Adam he was given work to do. We cannot be lazy. Jesus is coming, so look busy!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Like a fool to folly

Last month, I took a look at contemporary media. I pondered the degree to which Christians should be involved in the world. I have been exposed several times (two or three) times to various experiences in movies and have finally come up with my conclusion.

I should have reached my conclusion a month ago, since in the comments of the previously mentioned post, I said:

"How many times must evil be glorified in what we watch to tell Christians to stop?"

Now I have to point out that there are several aspects of a movie: paying for what you want to watch and paying for what you do not want to watch.

If I pay for that movie ticket, I am contributing to the profit of whatever that movie will see. So if there is blasphemy, I am paying to see blasphemy, no matter how much I hate it. This, I am not fine with. I check out whatever movie I am going to watch on ChristianAnswers.net, but it hardly helps much. For example, ratatouille was, I suppose not suspect. But I do like to be warned about people even referring to God in an unsightly manner, be it blasphemy or not.

And this is the core of the issue: is referencing to God. If I pay to see a movie, then I pay for it. But when it is done in the adverts, that really gets my blood boiling. The last two movies I saw BOTH had adverts that I would not have optioned to pay for to see in a movie.

But I realize I pay for the adverts too. It is for this reason I do not wish to go to movies. I cannot stop these people, but I can withhold my contribution. The same reasons are applied to television. I refuse to have these things in life purely because I do not want to support these things anymore.

"No single raindrop believes it is to blame for the flood."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Law

The Law is such a huge thing in Christendom. Without the law no one can be saved. I have been pondering the place of the law in the Christian life. How much do we have to obey? Which are the ten commandments? Well, here are my thoughts on the law.

Firstly, you cannot be saved by the law. This, to most Christians, seems obvious. But how obvious I wonder. The law does not save you. This means that by obeying the law of God, from this point on for the rest of your life, you will not be saved by it. The reason behind such a statement is this: The law is not given for salvation. I have received many an argument from friends saying "But I love my parents, I listen and care for others!" While I am not saying these things are not good, I am saying they are not the path to salvation.

But why? I have to obey the law, so why can it not be the means of my salvation? People are looking for the classic movie "one cure for all" solution in the law. The reason the law does not save is this: the law is what we are supposed to do anyway! We(human beings) are not found in a state where obedience is optional. Obeying the law is not a choice item. Think about the road traffic laws. Have you every received a letter from your local police thanking you for obeying the traffic laws? I certainly have not. There is only condemnation in the law! It is what is required of you no matter what.

But what is the purpose of the law then? Why keep it? God has saved us, do we need the law anymore? Of course. In conversion, we realize (via the Holy Spirit) that we are sinners in need of a saviour. The law of God convicts us in our hearts, and we are drawn to God, crying out in His name to save us.

This is the amazing thing: That there is no boasting in the works of the law. If I speed at 100 and Jimmy goes 200, where the speed limit is 60, who is guilty? Who receives a fine? We both do. I have no claim to be better than Jimmy just because my crime was less. It was still a crime. People seem to think that because they have not murdered they are not that bad a sinner. These people are pharisees and legalists!

"He [Jesus] also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:
10 "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."
-Luke 18:9 - 14

The pharisee in this parable compares himself to others. But the one who is truly righteous compares himself to none other than an eternal God. He looks at himself and can plainly see that it does not matter that other people sin, but that he does. The law is pure, it converts the soul. But only God can save us.

So the law must be followed, yes, but under the realization that it is God who saves. But what law then? The law Jesus gave. remember that God gave us a new covenant under Jesus, that no longer we would be under sacrificial (ceremonial) or the Jewish(civil) law. In the NT we just follow the moral law, which are the ten commandments, summed up as

"And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."
-Matthew 22:37 - 40

Even from the old testament God was showing that ceremonies and ritual are not what He requires.

"For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings."
-Hosea 6:6

Praise be to God, who made the law so that we do know the manner in which to act, but who also paid the penalty for when we do not obey His word!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Less of me

Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and am come for thy words. (KJV)

Then he said to me, "Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. (ESV)
-Daniel 10:12

In so many ways the bible goes misunderstood, not that I claim to understand it completely. But one thing that can be learnt from Daniel is that he did not think he had it down either. He was constantly making sure that he was correct, abstaining in uncertainty and being diligent to his commitments to God.

When we first meet Daniel, he is proving himself a worthy man to carry the name "Friend of God." In Daniel 1:8 He does not eat the kings food or wine, in fear of defiling himself before the Lord. My question is how did he know to do that? The food was not offered to idols (the text does not indicate that it was) nor was the meat unclean. Daniel just knew to do it, granted that Daniel was "skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning" (1:4) but that does not mean he was Godly.

But as we reach Chapter 10 in Daniel we find out how he became so wise. He did two things and he was heard: (1) He set his heart to understand and (2) He chastened (humbled) himself before his God. It is these two elements that bring forth Godly understanding.

The first thing to notice is that Daniel did not miraculously achieve understanding by himself. He was not clever in his own right, but rather trusted that God would grant him the understanding that was needed. This fits in perfectly with a Christian attitude, as someone who realizes that there is nothing good in them, but all good things can be brought by God. Understanding, that is, true understanding, must come from God.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding"
-Proverbs 3:5
"Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?"
-1 Kings 3:9
" And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore"
-1 Kings 4:29
"Only, may the LORD grant you discretion and understanding, that when he gives you charge over Israel you may keep the law of the LORD your God"
1 Chronicles 22:12

So in what manner do we set our hearts on understanding? Proverbs 3:5 indicates that we start out by trusting in the Lord with all our hearts. The amazing parallel here is that we, as Christians, should be invariably gaining some sort of understanding the more we follow the greatest commandment:

"You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might"
-Deuteronomy 6:5, called the greatest commandment by Jesus in Matthew 22:38 - 39

But there is more to it than simply loving God, therefore trusting Him, we need to set our hearts to understand. This indicates that we do not perform this task reflexively. We are going to have to go against our very nature, which is to put trust in ourselves. We are going to have to put effort in to it. This is going to take some personal sacrifice, which leads into step two.

Daniel chastened himself before his God. This Greek word aw-naw' has so many meanings, all with regard to looking down and putting away, obviously in the context all relating to self. It has a connotation with lowlyness. The word relates to depression. This word is used for humble as well. So when we do not understand, there is no cause for dispair, for God is allowing for us a time of chastening, remember he chastens those He loves (Revelation 3:9). When we do not understand, God is not cursing us, He is blessing us with the constant reminder that He is sovreign! What praise can we give to the God of truth that is so amazing He chooses to share His truth with us. There are harsh reminders of this in scripture:


"Claiming to be wise, they became fools"
-Romans 1:22
"Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight."
-Romans 12:16
"Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise."
-1 Corinthians 3:18

There is so much in each of these verses, the glory and wisdom of God.

This is what I want to achieve: understanding in my God. This is what it is going to require: a loss of self. How amazing is my God. All the glory to Him forever.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Civility

I have been thinking lately about the manner in which Christians are to present themselves before other Christians and the world. The first thing I would like to say is that God is always watching and He knows our hearts whether we like it or not:

"I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds."
- Jeremiah 17:10, cf 1 Chronicles 28:9, Psalm 139:2, plus all the times Jesus knew what people were thinking

So we can summarize it like this: God is watching. He watches to the extent that He knows our intentions. The idea that I am trying to put through is: How would you act if you constantly remembered that God can see what you do? In His infinite mercy, he even goes to the point of telling us how to behave explicitly.

The first issue I want to look at is civility. Civility is defined as:

  • formal or perfunctory politeness
  • politeness: the act of showing regard for others
[REF]

So in what manner are we to be polite in front of God? Obedience is obviously the answer, but lets go deeper into that. First we must distinguish that there are two kinds of civility: 1. Social civility and 2. Christian civility. Obviously if we are being civil, people will be able to see it. However, is there a difference between the civilized nature of unregenerate man and the new nature provided by Christ to man through the Holy Spirit at conversion? I would hope so. If we act no different to civilized unregenerate man, what is the point of telling people that they must pursue holiness?

Lets be honest here, people who belong to Christ should act like they know who owns them. My policy is the "lyrics off" policy. Turn off the words, and only the words, not the other sounds, and see how Christian the situation is. For an illustration: look at Hillsongs. Please do not think this is an attack on their salvation or their message, if you like Hillsongs that's fine, but just consider this point for a second. In your head, turn off WHAT they are saying. Then compare it to another secular band. In my head, there is no difference. For me this does no good, the message is, when you get saved, only certain things change. You can still have exactly the same background music as the world (plus the crowds will still be there screaming). Only the lyrics have changed. 1 The problem with this is that it is a surface (cosmetic) change. If we are saved, surely we are saved from the inside out, our minds now totally turned towards the glory of God?

Now lets apply this principle to Christian gatherings. Obviously when we get together it is for no other reason but the glory of God. We do not go out to glorify ourselves, our partners or do worldly things in the same manner as the world. We are certainly edified by the gathering of fellow believers, but all to the glory of God. If we acted in the same way as the world, we are the enemies of God. Obviously all the conversation at a Christian gathering will be permeated by Godly conversation, but what if we took the "lyrics off" approach?

Lets take a controversial example: drinking. At a Christian function, you should see very few people with a drink. Why is this? Well, first of all, surely Christians would organize designated drivers (in order not to even run the risk of breaking traffic laws)? The Christian is the one who absolutely does not drink and drive (not a drop), regardless of his opinion of his "limit". Also there would be no one who is legally not permitted to drink present, because we would not want to even run the risk of glorifying drinking in front of them (It would be their parents or very close personal discipleship that should explain drinking, but who is the group to determine their well-being?). We should be concerned for weaker and younger brothers.

It goes without saying that we should not drink in front of unbelievers, lest they think you can still be worldly and 'Christian.' A group of Christians who drink together would be a small group of people who knew each other very well. Jesus did drink wine (he even condoned it at a wedding by turning water into wine - not that we are told if He drank it there) at the last supper and on the cross. We have two cases when our Lord actually drank: in closed room with twelve people he had known for years (Matthew 14:25) and just before he died, while on the cross (which actually was sour wine and he did not ask for wine, he simply said "I thirst"). Which one applies to us? I really do not believe there is any other place for drinking in the Christians life. To be quite frank, I prefer abstinence. I feel that if people are going to argue "pro-drinking" they are fighting for something unnecessary, and they should question why they fight for it. It is just one of those things that can turn so ugly so fast, why even bother? Romans 14:21 all the way.

Prayer should also be something that people notice "lyrics off." Not personal prayer but when Christians gather, are they just doing something silly or is there some seriousness, as if there were a king present?

A Christian is someone who is careful. In certain instances, the bible is not talking of drunkenness in terms of alcohol, rather the insobriety of becoming 'drunk' within circumstances. Oh how I know of my weakness in this. I become so wrapped up in a situation that I am quite easily led straight into sin. We must be careful we do not get 'drunk' on the world. We must fervently protect our sobriety. If we are not being careful, we have not yet even begun to be Christian in a situation. Carefulness is being civil, but surely the sphere of Christian civility is a lot smaller than that of general civility?

There are certain things that are not associated with Christians. Ephesians 5 describes this: filthiness, foolish talk, crude joking and drunkenness with wine. What should be the Christian civility? Obviously all the things these things are not and: walking in love, thanksgiving, try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord, expose unfruitful works, careful walking (acting), making the best use of time (Eph 5:16), not being foolish, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with their hearts and submitting to one another out of a reverence for Christ (servant-leadership).

This is my opinion of what should happen when Christians gather in the name of the Holy Lord. We must keep in mind that Christ bought us with a price and although there is much joy in that, there is no joy anywhere else. If we are having fun and it is not in the name of the Lord, we must be careful not to fall off.

"The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers."
- 1 Peter 4:7


_______________________________________
1 Does this mean I think we should only sing hymns? No of course not! Praise Him with a new song. I think it is great to have a rock influence in the music, but you cannot do it exactly the way the world does it and make surface changes. Please do not think I dislike modern Christian music, I do not. But keep in mind that just because 'Christians' make the music does not make it Christian music.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

In this day and age

In this day and age, it is too easy to say "I am a Christian." The question that should always be haunting us should be "Am I really?"

Questioning your election is not an unhealthy exercise. Calvinist or not, the term 'elect' applies to every Christian. The Greek word for church, 'Eklektos1,' refers to the "called out ones," also known as the 'elect,' so whether or not you subscribe to the doctrine of election as defined in Calvinism, as a Christian (no matter what kind of Christian) you do believe that you are called out. The process of calling out is where some Christians disagree.

But we do have something to rely on. When we question whether we are Christian or not we know we can examine our fruit. "Do I exhibit Christian characteristics as promised by scripture?" I know that for years this did bug me because I did not. We do have security that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. We also know that we cannot earn salvation, and although we should endeavor to be like Christ throughout our lives, we cannot be saved by our works. So when Satan or your conscience tells you "you do not deserve salvation," reply with "of course I do not, that is why Jesus had to come. If I were capable of saving myself in any way, Christ need not have died for my sin."

I read an article today [HERE]. A man was lead to his death. Just before leaving his fellow believers behind, he said "Overcome with faith." That man was executed for being Christian. His fellow brethren were beaten and treated like slaves. We get so caught up in doctrine disputes and such like, we act so much like the Israelites in the dessert. I wonder how I and many others would have acted in the same situation. Just look at what one of the captives said:

"I was beaten many times. They pointed a rifle and bayonet at me and tried to force me to convert."

They tried. But it sounds like they did not convert. If you can walk away from salvation, how do you know when you have? How did you know you were saved? What security is there in salvation? Is it "as long as I stand firm then God will save me?" Oh please let it not be so! How can you stand firm without Him?

Under persecution, I bet no one ever doubted that God would preserve their souls. Even on the emotional level, do you think people would think it possible to lose their salvation? Can you imagine counseling? The weakness of God against the mighty will of man? Oh man, where have you been? Is salvation such a commonality in your life that you would gladly accept that it is perishable? That you must maintain it?

I have often wondered how it was that, upon seeing the pillar of fire by night and following the pillar of cloud by day, the Israelites lost their faith (Not their 'salvation' just by the way - they are still out of the slavery of Egypt). How does one lose faith when faced with the glory of God? Yet here we are, with men who are prepared to teach that man can see the glory of God's grace in salvation, and choose to leave it behind. What is salvation to such men? It is like a pool. In the hot summer weather these men will gladly maintain it, but as soon as winter makes its marks on the land, they let it lie in waste.

Let me tell you what winter is in my analogy, just to be clear: winter is the period of spiritual blessing. When times are hot, when we really need it, we are in a state of mind that makes us realize the importance of our soul in eternity. Let us call these hot times a period of depravity. But under blessing, when we do not 'need' God or His salvation, we walk away? If salvation is not precious to you, then of course you will 'reserve' your right to walk away. Why bother being in an eternal commitment if life on earth is going to get better?

God came to give hope to those who have none. The totally depraved. Temporal blessings are a curse when God is not given the glory for them. He is so kind to us and yet we think that we have power over Him. Well, I think not. I know that when the end of days comes, when the final trumpet is sound, I will be with the group of people who declare that 'salvation belongs to our God.'

Anyway, I think that those South Koreans really had a bad time. Keep them in your prayers. Remember that God is there and it is His glory that we should seek. Be blessed in all you do.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Yom Bomb

I have been reading the case for a young earth at Answers in Genesis1 and have a few things I would like to say.

Firstly the context of the word day. It's amazing how people will assert that the word day does not have to mean a literal 24 hour period2, yet not willing to accept the fact that it can mean a literal 24 hour period. With this, I would like to see one instance of YOM used in the OT where it does not mean a literal day, when it is accompanied by a number and the words 'morning', 'evening' or 'morning' and 'evening'. Some people say yom should be translated as time3 (i.e. this was the second time God did creative work). What about when it is accompanied by the words Morning and / or Evening? God was being explicit.

Another point I would like to make, is people tend to use the 'stupid man' argument. "How was Moses supposed to understand billions of years?" some will ask. The argument is that men back then would not be able to grasp really large numbers and so God spoke allegorically. Firstly, there are better Hebrew words for long periods of time4. God did not have to give the exact age of the earth, but the question remains as to why did He use the word 'yom' in the context of numbers and morning / evening.

On a second note, is God is incapable of explaining large numbers to people? How small is God? Liberals try to use this verse to prove 'stupid man:'

"I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies,"
-Genesis 22:17 [Emphasis Added]

Now consider what God is telling Abram here. He is saying there is no point in trying to count the amount of offspring he will receive. If God had meant many years (in Genesis) he could simply have said "as many days as in a pinch of sand" or something like that.

A 'stupid man' argument would follow the lines of "God did not say billions or zillions because Abram could not understand those terms." If this were the case, consider if I said to you, "I will bless you in the hundreds". This limits my blessing to you to a maximum of 999, any further blessing is not part of the deal. Now consider the amount of people in the world today, over 8 billion. The amount of people to have existed in the last 4000 years (we all agree the earth is at least 4000 years old) must be far over billions and even zillions. God not only said what he said beautifully, he said exactly what he meant to say: "Do not bother trying to count." God was showing that when it comes to blessing, there is none like Him.

____________________________

1Terry Mortenson, Answers in Genesis, Why Shouldn’t Christians Accept Millions of Years?, Accessed 29 August 2007

2 Accuracy in Genesis, The Days of Genesis, Accessed 29 August 2007

3 [DIRECT PDF LINK] Rodney Whitefield, Ph.D., The Hebrew Word “Yom” Used with a Number in Genesis 1: What does “yom” mean in Genesis 1?, Accessed 29 August 2007

4 Russell Grigg, Answers in Genesis, How long were the days of Genesis 1?, Accessed 29 August 2007

Friday, August 24, 2007

Disciple means discipline

I have been thinking about the ever-controversial issue of church discipline. In fact, many Christians have never even heard of this practice. People refuse to believe that Jesus taught it and few would find the stones1 to carry it out. But what does the bible say?

Well, before I start this study in the word, I would like to point out that this whole discussion refers to people who claim that they are saved. So we are not looking at the world here, we are looking at the people we call 'brother.' This is not for people who do not claim salvation. This applies to Church members and servants in the church, not to the sinner who just comes in and listens to sermons.

So let us begin with our Saviour, what is his take on discipline. Well, the model is given in Matthew:

"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector."
- Matthew 18:15 - 17

Things I notice from the text
  • The sin is against you. This means it is personal
  • We must not allow the brother to remain in 'fault' we tell him about it
  • It must be brought to the church, if he refuses to listen
  • If he does not listen, we treat him as a gentile or a tax collector
This all goes after forgiveness. The brother must be forgiven before the approach is made. We are to forgive, so that we no longer approach out of anger, but rather out of love. If he repents (not just by his mouth) we have gained our brother. If he does not repent we are to treat him as a gentile or tax collector, like someone who is a sinner. We do not cut him out or anything like that, but treat them with all the care and love as we do with any other sinner.

Paul tells us that it is those inside the church we are to judge, not the world:

"I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people-- 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler--not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. 'Purge the evil person from among you.'"
-1 Corinthians 5:9 - 13 [Emphasis added]

What do we do with this? We are all guilty of this, right? We are all sinners and all have broken the law. So now we should be put out? No, you see, the Christian is the person whose sin is sickening to them. This passage is talking about people who boast that they are sinners but claim to be Christian. They were proud of their sin to the point they boasted about it. Paul is saying that people who boast in their sin and claim to be Christians we should not eat with. They must be put out.

Put out? Really? Yes. Lets look at the word purge. 'Ex-ah'ee-ro' is the Greek word used there. It literally means to remove. Ans it is a pastoral epistle, so that means they are no longer a part of the church. This does not mean they cannot repent. People will argue with me on this, but I did not write the bible. If someone wants to explain this verse, please tell me. I trust God and His word, but if I am wrong, please tell me. You cannot simply say that "God is love," because you would have to admit that "God is also wrath." But why purge them? Why so harsh? Well, Paul does not leave us in the dark:

"Do not be deceived: 'Bad company ruins good morals.'34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame."
- 1 Corinthians 15:33 - 34

You see, the Christian is the person who does not grow indifferent to sin. Every sin is another nail in the cross. Every time you sin you should be reminded of God's grace to you, but also be repentant. Paul is also saying that some people have no knowledge of God, so who are you to judge? You cannot look at them and say "I am better than them" - the only reason we are 'better' has nothing to do with you, but the grace of God! You have more light, and therefore your sin is done in direct defiance, not blindness. If a seeing man walks into a wall, he is a fool, but how dare you call a blind man a fool for his blindness. I can understand why Paul said that 'to their shame.'

I must mention that it is not Paul who teaches that Christians are not apathetic to sin. John teaches that you are not a Christian if you claim you have no sin, but the Christian is someone who is afflicted by their sinful nature:

"Whoever says 'I know him' but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, ... 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked...9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness... 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes... 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world--the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world... 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also."
- 1 John 2:4, 6, 9 , 11, 15 -16, 19, 23 [Emphasis added]

To be specific, Christians try to keep the commandments. We may sin, but we repent, as we are commanded to. But here we have criteria that identify true Christians. We must not be afraid to use these on ourselves and on others, so we all may see.

My conclusion is this: church discipline must be practiced. At the worst extreme it does involve someone being removed from the Church. This does not mean they cannot repent and return, we are to implore them to. But while they are apathetic to their sin, we cannot even eat with them. Just a reminder, these are people who claim to be saved that refuse to repent, are proud or apathetic towards the sin in them and have been publicly exposed. People may call me unloving, but to correct my brother according to the word of God is loving. It would be my sin to stand back and let him continue building wrath for himself.

1 "find the stones" is a poor turn of phrase in a biblical context. You are not to stone them, what I mean is that find the confidence.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Suffer the little children

I think Jesus is coming soon. If South Africa continues down this current trend, I really do not see much hope for us. [HERE] is an article describing the new children's acts. I really want to have kids one day, if I have them in this country, my wife will be teaching them home school. They will never leave my sight.

If you can make any sense of this article please let me know. Allow me to join some key phrases here.
"The act is not about encouraging sex among teenagers. The legal age of consent remains 16.""THE Children's Act, ... [has] provisions that allow children as young as 12 access to contraceptives and the right to have pregnancies terminated without parental consent."

From reading the article, it seems like 'pedo-promiscuity' is both condemned and permitted. Just look here:

"The Children's Act was enacted to address inequalities of the past.""Van Niekerk says that given the fact that HIV/AIDS is rife, it would be unwise to deny children contraceptives such as condoms. SA is unique in that many children are victims of social ills such as poverty, orphanhood, HIV/AIDS, sexual and physical abuse, and crime, she says"

Please read those carefully, we have poverty etc., so to fix it we give children contraceptives and abortions. Not only that, we see to it that parents no longer have any guidance over the child, as it is now up to the child to inform the parents. I simply do not see how this makes up for "inequalities of the past." But a wonderfully South African excuse at best.

These are all symptoms, not the cause. The cause is that morally we are corrupt. As a group of Christians we have become slack in standing up for the truth. As Christians we have all failed our nation. We do not stand firm on truth. We allow these things to go on and now we have to lay in the bed that is made for us.

"..adults need to understand the predicament in which many children find themselves -- poverty, orphan-hood and little or no financial support."

So contraceptives are going to help? You see, there is something going on in South Africa. No one is to blame. Everyone is a 'victim.' Parents are no longer responsible for themselves, let alone their children. When grading tests, teachers can not mark an 'x' or place anything 'negative' on the paper of the child. If the child cannot cope with mathematics, psychologists will seek out some vague syndrome and apply it to the child, so that the child is not accountable. I understand that some children have real problems, but if little Johnny does not do his homework and listen in class, little Johnny will not be able to cope. The fault lies with the parents and Johnny.

"The act includes the controversial contraceptive clause on the grounds that it will help to protect children from sexually transmitted diseases and prevent teenage pregnancies"

This makes me sick. One thing I will ask, children do not naturally have sex by themselves, who is teaching them to do so? Where do they get all this sex stuff from? Do you want to know how to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS? and STDs? Somebody ask me, please. My answer is FOOL-PROOF and absolutely free of charge.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Lord give me a wife

This writing is more about me, and may hopefully pointed to someone who has not yet travelled along my path. In writing this, do not feel that I seek your pity, I seek only to discuss an issue on my heart. My goal is to write this down that I might understand my own mind by reflecting with the bible.

Many times I have been up and down the road of wanting and then not wanting a wife. I pace reluctantly forward and back, looking at examples here and there, focusing on the ones that suit my current state of mind. Recently I have been back to the good old "I do not deserve a wife." While this is true, it is not complete. No one deserves anything good from God; yet He blesses so many today

"He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD." - Proverbs 18:22

Strong words coming from a man with over one thousand wives. But my most recent argument went like this: If I have sinned, in the manner that I have sinned, knowing and being taught the things that I have been studied in and taught, then surely it is just punishment for God to remove the gift of a wife from me.

It was last Friday, when the Lord started answering my prayer. He did not answer it with a woman, nor a man (in case you were wondering), he simply allowed me to hesitate. We were asked "who does not want to get married sometime in the future?" I waited, and thought rightly of the manner that I wanted to answer, but as I rose my hand and said, in the voice of a mouse, "me," the room erupted and no-one else but my close friend, heard and saw what I had done. I am so joyful over this, because it became a topic of my thought, the marriage institution. I imagined the manner in which people would try to council me out of this 'sorry' state, only I fear that God put the very things on my mind that brought me out of such an exodus.

My friend, who was with me, as another close friend, who I spoke to later, did not have much to say. They know that I can be extremely stern-minded and unwavering when it comes to council, something I trust God will deal with, or perhaps, as most people reading this article may think, that I seek some pat on the back or attention to need. These things, while good for some, are not the things I need in this case.

I have been, in my studies, listening to sermons that were given at shepherds conferences in South Africa in 2005 to 2007. They aided me when I had no pastor and strengthen me further now that I do. I usually only handle one a night, and this night was, I thought, no exception. I am tired, I have other things to do, many books to read and much to do tomorrow. But something made me want to listen to one more talk tonight. Although the sermon was on the subject of gay marriages, Mark Christopher started out talking about the purposes of marriage, as found in Genesis 1 and 2.

The first thing we find is that God created the genders. He created both of them in His own image (Genesis 1:26 - 27). This would mean that both genders reflect God, albeit in different ways. So the first element of the purpose of marriage is that it is reflective of God. When a man marries a woman they share in being a reflection of God. This is part of the purpose of man's journey; consider the words of Zechariah:

"And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, 'They are my people'; and they will say, 'The LORD is my God.'" - Zechariah 13:9

Any good exegesis of the text will tell you that in order to purify silver, one cannot leave it out of the fire, for then it is not pure. If one holds it over the fire to long, the silver is burnt and is useless. The only manner in which to know that the silver is pure, and right, is when the silver has been in the fire long enough that the purifier can see His reflection perfectly within the silver. If marriage is reflective of God, then it is my desire to be married in a Godly manner.

I always sought a woman who was like myself, proving how much an idolater I truly am. The second element of marriage, according to Mark Christopher, is that it is completive. It completes, in the sense that different things are brought together. What is a man with two brains and no heart? The argument belongs to God:

Then the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." - Genesis 2:18

Note that up to this point everything is good. This does not mean that everything was sufficient. Man, without woman is incomplete. The God who speaks matter into creation decrees that man should not be alone. There is something that creation could not do for man that only a woman can do. The scales of humanity do prove this: men are aggressive, analytical, reflective while woman more sensitive (understanding), intuitive, communicative. Men are guided more by sight, woman more by emotion. Men require justice, woman require compassion. As I struggle with the will of man, I realise that Godly living is life lived in perfect harmony. So often I tend to get so caught up in election that I forget my accountability. I find that in myself I am a perpetual pendulum, blindly swinging from one extreme of the spectrum to the next. I have come to conclude that God knows infinitely more than I do, whether or not I understand His ways. All I can do is ask Him to grant me understanding, the way Daniel did.

The third element is the unitive element. It is this reason alone that gives me hope in my reconciliation with Christ. That, although I am a sinner by nature, I am saved by His grace and may even share in the state that He has for Himself. In Genesis 2:24 God says they will become "one flesh" (Hebrew: ekh-awd'). This very special word for 'one' is used by God to describe himself as one in many parts:
"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one."
- Deuteronomy 6:4

Pointing to the unity of God Himself when he ordains marriage. It is here I find myself most undeserving in the gift of marriage, but hoping that I would receive it to glorify Him in it rather than to seek my own glorification. Instead of focusing on my undeserving nature and situation, I choose to focus on God's mercy, God's love and His ability to provide the help that every man needs.

A pro-creative marriage is the kind of marriage I seek. The fourth element of a marriage is that children are another gift that flow from God. God gave the ability to woman to bear children, but to the man he gave to ability to determine the gender of the child, not of man's will, of course, but the sovereign will of God. I used to find that children were no more burden to me than blessing. But after teaching them the word of God almighty, I find myself referring to them as "my children" to people who do not know me (I usually explain myself) and grow in concern as the day draws near that I will no longer be their teacher. God, in His sovereignty, has taught me to love children.

The final point of the elements of marriage, as I just heard tonight, is that of exhilaration. The marriage promises to make one weak at the knees. It is a gift from God that is so wonderful that it saddens me to think of those who do not seek first His kingdom, for they focus on the blessing not on the one from whom we receive blessing, But God has promised to add all these things unto us. He knows the manner in which His children need. He will not allow us to receive scorpions. I realize that God does take away, but as Mark Christopher said, "there is more grace in God than there is sin in you". I found such hope in God

"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." - 1 Corinthians 6:9-11



This is the source of my joy. That God does bless. I do not wish to begin dating, I do not think that dating is the manner in which I should meet, maintain and marry a woman. There are some who advocate dating, saying that if they wanted to be biblical about finding a wife they would ask their father to find them one. While my fleshly father fails me spiritually, I dare not trust him, especially in such matters as these. But I have a heavenly father, who created the world. I will pray without wavering, not to be tossed like an ocean tide, or that I would receive for myself, but that I would receive that which may bring Him glory and honour. I also pray that I would be patient in my prayer, yet another gift that only God Himself can give.

While I know that it is not guaranteed that I would get a wife, I will not stop in the faith that it is God alone who blesses. It is not up to me to determine whether I have forfeited this gift. Like David, who prayed and fasted and hoped while his child was still living that God would show mercy, so will I hope that the Lord would shine His grace upon me.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The freedom of the will

"If, then, I find taught in one place that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find in another place that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is my folly that leads me to imagine that two truths can ever contradict each other. " - C. H. Spurgeon

In all the doctrines of grace, the one most people find offensive is that which is called unconditional election. The assumption that God has chosen some over others is unthinkable to them, it offends their sense of justice. This is rightly so. How can a just God be capable saving all men, yet only choose to save some? Even worse so, if God is then responsible for calling man to himself, why has he not done so? In all of this, one is forced to ask, why cannot a man choose for himself salvation? The truth of the matter of the will must always rely on God. In all our existence God must be first, otherwise we have nothing in our faith. If God is not first in the lives of someone, that person is not a believer. The very thing a believer does is pray "Your will be done" (Matthew 6:10). From the very beginning of Genesis 1:1 God has not afforded us answers to 'why' and 'how' the things that be are in the state they they exist. God reveals His truth according to the good pleasure of His will. There are people who take it for what it says and there are those who refuse to accept it.

"How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, 'n' how many ears must
one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, 'n' how many deaths will it take
till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend,
is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind." - Bob Dylan "Blowin' in the Wind"

So when we find taught that it is God who calls, we cannot claim that we know who he calls and how he calls. We are told by God:

"And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy." - Exodus 3:19

This clearly indicates that we cannot know, nor it is the intention of the Father that we do know, who is going to be called to salvation and who is not. The discples had the same problem as we do with such doctrine (who can be saved) and in His graciousness Jesus gave them an answer:

25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?" 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." - Matthew 19:25

Also Jesus asserts:

"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day." - John 6:44

This seems to dishearten Christians, although I cannot understand how this is so. If you are a Christian, you have learned from God. This makes you a part of His kingdom.

The bigger question then becomes: Who then is called? If it is God who calls these people to Himself, why are we commanded to go out and teach the nations? Why should we evangelize or talk about God? To such people I generally hold my tounge, but the question that iches under my throat begs to be let out, to ask: How often do you speak about God to others? What evangelism do you do? What evangelism do you support? This goes beyong the mere handing out of tracts. This must be infused in your very life. Who can truly say "God did not make me an evangelist." God commands your evangelism:

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" - Matthew 28:19

In this the father has revealed the means of his election. He calls through the work of those who go out in his name and preach. If we look at some of the verses that teach us this manner of winning souls

"Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me" - John 6:45
"I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?" - John 9:27
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. " - John 10:27
"How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?" - Romans 10:14

The faster men learn that it by hearing God's word that others will call on Him will be saved the better. We know that it is by no other than Christ's works that can save us. There are those that are not of God. They will not hear the word of God:

"Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God." - John 8:47

But that does not mean we remove from their ears the opportunity of hearing the word, for God may one day use the words that they heard as seeds that are slow in blossoming:

The sower sows the word.
15 And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them.
16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy.
17 And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.
18 And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word,
19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.
20 But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold." - Mark 4:14 - 20

But first the seed must be thrown out. God has graciously given us seed to bear, we throw it out in faith, knowing that God is in control of the flight of the seed, the landing site of the seed, the manner in which the ground is tilled and the watering and nourishment of such seedlings. Sometimes He may use us, other times the seed may be dormant for a while, ready for harvest when it is His will.

Does this remove from man's free will? No, this doctrine does not encumber the freedom of man. Man may do whatever he pleases. Man is simply not in control of his salvation from evil. Being conceived in sin and brought fourth in iniquity it is the nature of man to sin.

"Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.
35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.
36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you." - John 8:34 - 37

We know that it is not up to man to save himself, otherwise Christ would have died in vain. We know that Christ came for those who would believe. This does not excuse us from doing His work that he called us to.

In evangelism, this proves a great relief. No matter what we do, we are saved, and God will save those who he wills. It does not count how badly we witness or how terrible an example we are to men, as sinners. We can count that the glory of God will always win out:

"If anyone's work[referring to work done in the name of the kingdom, being tested by fire on the last day] is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire." - 1 Corinthians 3:15

If it were not so, if all men could come of their own will, they dare not rest a single minute of their lives. I urge men to continue being Arminian, for their evangelism must be far more educated, far more intense and greater in grief than any others. The Arminian evangelist believes that man can chose God, regardless of the timing, on his own accord. Men who do not believe on Jesus Christ will be burned in eternity and the burden that befalls an Arminian who does not convince a man to truly believe must carry the weight greater than I could bear. I am not joyful over people who do not believe or do not repent, but I can rejoice that it is God who changes the mind and replaces the heart.

"And I will give them[you] one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them[you]. I will remove the heart of stone from their[your] flesh and give them[you] a heart of flesh" - Ezekiel 11:19 [36:26]

The Arminian theology does not let a man sleep at night for there are those who go unsaved. There are those who are not convinced. If God is not sovreign in salvation, then those men all have missed their opportunity of salvation. This is then the Arminians fault. If it is God who calls, the people of God may take some rest, to go to Church and keep a family, because they know that it is God who calls, and not one of His chosen will perish.

To any Arminian, I would ask you to consider these words:

"... Do you consider yourself to be compassionate of other humans? If you're right, as you say you are, and that you believe that, then how can you sleep at night? When you are speaking with me, you are speaking with someone who you believe is walking directly into eternal damnation, into an endless onslaught of horrendous pain which your 'loving' god created, yet you stand by and do nothing. If you believed one bit that thousands every day were falling into an eternal and unchangeable fate, you should be running the streets mad with rage at their blindness. That's equivalent to standing on a street corner and watching every person that passes you walk blindly directly into the path of a bus and die, yet you stand idly by and do nothing. You're just twiddling your thumbs, happy in the knowledge that one day that 'walk' signal will shine your way across the road... If you're right, then you're an uncaring, unemotional and purely selfish [explative] that has no right to talk about sbjects such as love and caring..." - J. D. Franz, Atheist1

This man knows what love is. He knows what caring is. I do not accuse all Arminians of not evangelising, I do not know all Arminians. These words plague my heart as I hope they do yours. I pray that they never leave you and that they affect your heart each and every time you hold back on what you believe. The Calvinist feels this pain as well, but does find some joy that at least if his efforts are not validated, that God will win those who are meant to be won.

I am not against Arminians, I think that there are those that are very doctrinely execellent. John Wesley was one such man. With insight and vigour his ministry flourished, although I am saddened to think of what he would say if he were around today. I think he would have more in common with Calvinists rather than those who call themselves Methodists:

Charles Simeon(CS) [to John Wesley(JW)]:"Sir, I understand that you are called an Arminian; and I have been sometimes called a Calvinist; and therefore I suppose we are to draw daggers. But before I consent to begin the combat, with your permission I will ask you a few questions... Pray, sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved that you would never have thought of turning to God, if God had not first put it into your heart?"
JW: "Yes, I do indeed"
CS: "And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by anything that you do; and look to salvation soley through the blood and righteousness of Christ?"
JW: "Yes, soley through Christ."
CS: "But sir, supposing you were ar first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterwards by your own works?"
JW: "No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last."
CS: "Allowing then, that you were first turned by grace of God, are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?"
JW: "No."
CS: "What, then, are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, as much as an infant in it's mother's arms?"
JW: "Yes, altogether."
CS: "And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you unto His heavenly kingdom?"
JW: "Yes, I have no hope but in Him."
CS: "Then Sir, with your leave I will put up my daggers again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election, my justification by faith, my final perseverance: it is in substance all that I hold, and as I hold it; and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially, unite in those things wherein we agree." 2

The choice put forth to man is who he shall serve, but man has chosen the world. Man is slaved to sin, only God can bring him out. One may ask if perhaps all men are elect and the act of acceptance is all that is required. Then I ask you what separates our God from the other gods in the world today. Why christianity for your salvation? There are many other religions that promise more earthly blessings for simple works. Ryken and Boice address such an issue:

[A person might say:] "The gift[salvation] has been selected and paid for, but no one can be forced to take a gift. In the same way, the world has been saved, but many will not be saved because they do not believe on Jesus"... Is unbeleif a morally neutral choice, merely deciding to accept or not to accept salvation? Or is it a sin? It is a sin, of course. In fact, it is the most damning of all sins, for it is the equivalent of trampling the very blood of the Son of God underfoot... If Jesus died for all sins, including the sin of unbelief...we are back once again to universalism.2

When man fights for his own will, he removes the possibility of God being sovreign over all things, for we can actively pursue that which actively offends God and renounces His will. To do so is to put ourselves on the same level of God, since we are equally opposed forces pulling and pushing in equal force to one another.
________________________

1 Ray Comfort "Intelligent design vs. Evolution: Letters to an Atheist", Bridge-Logos, ISBN 0-88270-166-5

2 James Montgomery Boice and Philip Graham Ryken "The Doctrines of Grace: Rediscovering the Evangelical Gospel", Crossway Books, ISBN-10: 1-58134-299-3

Friday, August 17, 2007

Origin of Genesis

There is a theory, known as the document hypothesis, claiming that the book of Genesis (and the rest of the Pentateuch) was put together from various sources. While my heresy detector is in the shop, my internal senses are not really going off in any huge way.

The concern is, does it matter if Moses himself wrote Genesis? We know from Jesus that Moses did write the law:

"For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. - John 1:17"


But there is no 'law' that was given explicitly in Genesis, other than "you shall not eat of the tree in the midst of the Garden". The law existed back then, but it was never explicit. We know the law existed because people knew to give sacrifices (Cain and Abel). Other examples of law in Genesis include the murder of Abel results in the punishment of Cain (why punish if there is no law?) and God punishing people for adultery, even if it is unwitting (Genesis 12:17).

My concern is with Moses himself. No matter how you think the bible got to us, we were not there when it was written. We cannot go and see it. Now apparently the document hypothesis is trying to claim that it was stupid people who wrote the bible. AiG claim that it is because of the evolutionary background. I beg to differ, albeit slightly 1.

Evolutionists hate us anyway. They have no respect for scripture, regardless of the author. I suppose that Theistic evolutionists might want to say that evolution fits into scripture, but they do not refute it's divinity2. So we need to know why the document hypothesis was brought about. Evolutionists would be silly, theistic evolutionists would not want to destroy the book and the conservatives say Moses.

You see, evolutionists would say that Moses is stupid either way, he existed thousands(possibly millions) of years ago. According to them we are getting smarter and stronger. I do not see how going to the book to prove anything from their perspective is going to help. If they look in to the book, they are admitting a certain amount of authority. Then just because they use the bible, does not mean they are right:

"...There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. " - 2 Peter 3:16(b)


This seems like one of those "side-winder" attacks. You attack something that has little to no weight anyway but get people to question it all the same. So you say "Did Moses really write that book." And just because you ask that question you throw people into this doubting pit. Just remember that Satan did it to Eve and he will do it to you too. I am not saying Moses wrote Genesis, but consider this: we do not know who wrote Hebrews, yet it is still scripture. The fact is it is here and it is scripture. Will you remove from scripture just because you do not know the earthly vessel God used to bring it to us? Then you may as well throw away all of scripture, because we do not have a single original text of the bible. Nothing in the OT and nothing in the NT. That means the only one we can give glory to for the book is God!

I believe Moses is the author, not that this is essential to salvation. AiG provides good evidence that Genesis had one author:

"‘After feeding the 20,000 Hebrew words of Genesis into a computer at Technion University in Israel, researchers found many sentences that ended in verbs and numerous words of six characters or more. Because these idiosyncratic patterns appear again and again, says project director Yehuda Radday, it seems likely that a sole author was responsible. Their exhaustive computer analysis conducted in Israel suggested an 82 percent probability that the book has just one author.’"


Those odds for single authorship are better than if life evolved from a rock!

I would really like to see the same analysis done on the whole Pentateuch. The main element I have noticed is people say: "Moses wasn't there." This is rather foolish. My God is so big he creates universes by speaking but He cannot tell a human what He did and get them to write it down? Moses was not there at creation, nor was he able to record the details of his birth. Why would Moses write in the third person? Sure, all of these are valid questions, but what does it have to do with the divine nature of scripture? The bible is infallible and inerrant, unlike the document hypothesis. There is a nice review identifying some of the problems [HERE]

[HERE] Is a nice summary of the two views, probably slightly more well put than me. I fall into the conservative category and would happily go through each of the

"clues that Moses didn't write the Pentateuch, according to liberal theologians"


and show that they do not affect inerrancy or single-authorship. I love the whole "two creation stories" argument. Even when I was liberal I could prove it was one story. One thing I will maintain: My argument is as good as the next person, but we have to use scripture to interpret scripture. I breezed over the other 'clues' as well and some I have not really thought of, but I think it would be an interesting topic. If anyone is interested, let me know.

In summary I would say that I will not die on the hill that says Moses wrote Genesis. It is one of my pre-understandings but I do not even know when in his life he wrote Genesis, if he did. The fact is we have to trust that God has preserved his word for us, and that he will correct mistakes and errors in the text. I would say that it is more than likely that Moses did write it.

1 Answers in Genesis, Russell Grigg Did Moses really write Genesis?, accessed 17 August 2007

2 Answers in Creation, Greg Neyman, Old Earth Creation Science, Word Study: Yom accessed 17 August 2007

Thursday, August 16, 2007

"Familiarity breeds contempt"

I was listening on the radio last night, on the drive home from Bible study (a friend's car - I do not listen to radio) and I heard something along the lines of:

CALLER: "I was sitting in a restaurant yesterday and the Matre’D did not even come up to me and ask me how the meal was... It was not like it was busy, it was three o'clock in the afternoon... Familiarity breeds contempt."



This got me slightly livid. However this is the world and must thus be treated as such. But think about it. Think hard about what they are really saying. I think what they are trying to say is that business' get used to you and therefore forget to treat you as a new possibly regular customer. But as soon as you are a regular customer their treatment of you becomes apathetic.

[sermon]
This is so typical of Christians. We all become apathetic to our salvation. Instead of every day being amazed at God's glory and mercy by His sacrifice to us, we no longer treat God as the one who saved us forever but as that 'regular customer' who we do not need to attend to.
[/sermon]

Why the sermon, you ask. A valid question. Not all of us are in public service. The very reason we are not in public service is we do not delight in the service of others. As anti-Christian as this is, let us consider it from the worldly perspective.

If you give your [valuable] business to one company every day, that company should treat you the way you want to be treated. Please do not confuse this with the way you say you want to be treated. They will treat you the way you act. Therefore, if you go into a restaurant every day and you keep on grunting at the service, there are two things that are going to flow from that:
  • They are not going to want to serve you
  • They will learn you want to be left alone

My conclusion is simple: Treat others as you would be treated. If your familiarity breeds contempt, then I propose it is you that is contentious. If you go in every day with a warm smile and a loving attitude, who in the world is not going to want to be around you?

God's rules are so perfect. They are so just. I am amazed every day how if the world was just consistent in the laws Jesus gave, what a wonderful world it would be. I praise God that He is consistent and I pray that I may follow in His perfection.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Reincarnation

A very interesting topic. Does the Bible support reincarnation? The thing is, it's one of those things a Christian will say "NO" to and then chew on it for a while. After that while the Christian may begin to think of doctrines that may support it.

There are many tasty aspects to reincarnation from a doctrinal point of view (regardless of theological standpoint):

  1. Jesus rose from the dead

  2. In the new heaven and new earth, we will have new bodies

  3. If babies die, where do they go? Surely they get a second chance?


This is the kind of thinking I was once involved in. You kind of resist, but you don't really have a solid answer. Here it is: READ YOUR BIBLE. Stop leaning toward your own understanding!

Well, lets look at the argument first. The main thing to do is define the problem: Reincarnation. What is it?

literally "to be made flesh again", is a doctrine or mystical belief that some essential part of a living being (in some variations only human beings) survives death to be reborn in a new body.1



A new body. Well, Jesus did not have a new body when he rose, that would not prove he rose from the dead. To claim Jesus is an example of reincarnation denies the gospel itself. Thomas put his fingers on Jesus' wounds.

When we come to the new heaven and new earth, no one will be "born" again. The only new birth Christians speak about is the spiritual birth brought on by the Holy spirit. We will be raised from the dead, but no one will ever be born again.

Where do babies go where they die? Heaven. Do they get a second chance? No, they go to Heaven. Plain and simple, see the blog I did on this [here]. Revelation tells us that a group people from every tribe and every tongue will be saved. I believe it is the deaths of infants that are the representatives of those tribes.

Now we have looked at it from a theological viewpoint, but still no scripture references. Well, I challenge you to go and counter me with scripture references. The sad truth is, I would have nothing to blog about if I gave the scripture first:

"And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment" - Hebrews 9:27



What I am saying is be careful with pre-understandings. We must look to the bible for answers, so that we may "give a reason for the hope that is in us." But never forsake the word of God.

1 Wikipedia.com Reincarnation, Accessed 15 August 2007