Bible Thoughts

Shrouded Thinking

I came across this news item last week regarding the Shroud of Turin.  As we were sitting in Sunday School class yesterday with the youth at our church, we talked about it for a few minutes.  Of course, I realized that they had no idea what the Shroud of Turin even is, but that was pretty easy to explain.

The debate is still going as to the authenticity of the Shroud.  I am not firmly in either camp.  If it is genuine, that is certainly interesting and amazing, but it won’t make my faith any more firm than it already is.  I am completely convinced that Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the strength of evidence that has nothing to do with the Shroud.  If it is shown to be fake or fabricated long after the fact, it will have no effect on me for the same reason.  But I did see this cockamamie new theory from an academic who is convinced that the Shroud is genuine, but who has taken that conclusion to a bizarre place.

Art historian Thomas de Wesselow is convinced the Shroud is real and did touch Christ’s body.

But the Cambridge academic insists that the image on the cloth fooled the Apostles into believing Christ had come back to life, and the Resurrection was in fact an optical illusion.

Please note that we are talking about an “art historian” so I am left to conclude that his biblical knowledge and scholarship is likely to be lacking.  The idea that the early disciples would be so amazed by an image on a cloth that they would treat it as if the man they had walked with was “living in the image” or whatever he wants to call it, is insulting to the intelligence of first century believers for one thing and insulting to the testimony of Scripture for another.

His theory is based on the worst kind of Bible “scholarship” and I put it in quotes because it isn’t very scholarly at all.  He takes one verse (ONE) as proof for his theory and apparently ignores the rest of the story.  He tries to assert that Paul claimed that the resurrection is “not about flesh and blood” in 1 Corinthians 15(verse 50 according to the article).  I am not sure what translation he is working from but he draws completely the wrong conclusion about what Paul is saying.  At the beginning of that very chapter, Paul asserts that the risen Jesus was seen by Cephas (Peter) and then the rest of the disciples, and then at least 500 others, and then James and the rest of the apostles (1 Corinthians 15:4-7).  These appearances are the parading of an image on a sheet.  These are appearances in person and in the flesh.  A different kind of flesh to be sure (he walked into locked and shut rooms), but flesh that ate and could be touched.  Read the Gospel accounts and picture a pair of disciples walking down the road when a giant bedsheet with a picture suddenly appears next to them and starts talking and you will see just how silly and ill read this “art historian” has to be.

Is the Shroud of Turin legitimate?  Maybe.  Is it possible that the disciples and the first century witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection were all looking at it and thinking that this was Jesus raised from the dead?  Not a chance.  Just picture one of them trying to give a piece of fish to a cloth and being fooled into thinking the sheet ate it.

 

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Misunderstandings, Bible Thoughts, Christianity, False Teachers, History, Messiah, Questions, theology, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Secret Is not Safe

There is a scene in the early part of the first Lord of the Rings movie where Gandalf is cautioning Frodo regarding the ring that Bilbo has left to him.  Gandalf suspects that this ring is the “One Ring” that belonged to Sauron and therefore holds great danger to him.  He tells him to “keep it secret; keep it safe.”  This sounds like totally prudent advice.  For a time, the “keep it secret; keep it safe” plan might work, but eventually the ring has to be destroyed in order to break its evil power once and for all.

I know that many have used the symbolism of the Lord of the Rings to make spiritual points before.  I have no doubt that someone else has already drawn out the same conclusion I am going to make here.  The way that Gandalf initially tries to handle the ring is very similar to how most of us seek to handle sin in our lives.  We would prefer to keep it secret and hope that this will somehow keep us safe.  Secret sin however is far from safe, it is a time-bomb that is waiting to go off and destroy the one who holds it quietly in hiding.

The news came down Sunday that a fellow blogger and one who interacts frequently over at another blog I read at was caught in sin.  That which was thought to be secret and hidden had come out of the dark and into the light.  In one sense, this is not a new story.  It is a sad truth that has been repeated and will be seen again.  We cannot hide sin.  Trying to keep it secret will consume us and will leave us far from safe.  At times like this, my mind often recalls a song from one of my favorite artists.  A stark reminder that none of us are immune from the potential catastrophe of sin.

Do not seek to keep sin hidden thinking that it will be safe as long as it is unseen.  Jesus cautioned His disciples that there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed.  Just as Frodo had to take the ring out of hiding so that it could be destroyed, we too must bring sin into the light for its power to be broken.  This is God’s promise.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned we make Him a liar and the truth is not in us. – 1 John 1:9-10

From what I have gathered thus far, the person mentioned above is now beginning the road to restoration that follows confession, but real consequences still remain.  They always do when we don’t destroy what was secret in the hopes that it will be safer that way.  Please pray for this man and for those affected.

Categories: Bible Thoughts, Christianity, church, devotional, Discipleship, Grace, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Getting Understanding

7 The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.
Though it cost all you have, get understanding.  – Proverbs 4:7

I have a funny post queued up for later in the day, but I wanted to get this up first.  I have been doing several messages in the last few months playing off of this realization that we frequently misunderstand or make up meanings for obscure or difficult things in Scripture.  It is based on something I heard from First Fruits of Zion a year or two ago.  I found a couple of video clips on youtube that give a fuller explanation of this concept that I highly recommend.  It will take about 15 minutes of your time to watch these two clips back to back.  It is time well spent.

I know the end of the second clip includes a promo for some of their study material, but I can say this. Their study material is some of the most in-depth and thorough stuff I have ever seen.  When I got my first copy of Torah Club Volume 4 several years ago, I went through it with a fine tooth comb to look for areas of questionable scholarship or theological issues.  These guys do a great job of providing information as well as the sources that go into their materials and conclusions.  I highly recommend their work to anyone I talk to these days and I always enjoy checking out their new materials.  I currently have a small wishlist going for stuff I haven’t yet managed to purchase.

Here is one last video that talks about some of the deeper Hebraic concepts in the Gospels.  Enjoy.

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Misunderstandings, Bible Thoughts, Christianity, church, Discipleship, Faith, FFOZ, Giving, Gospel, Hebrew, Holy Spirit, Humor, Kingdom, Questions, theology, Truth, Yeshua | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Problem of All or Nothing

God is holy and perfect and commands us to be “perfect as He is perfect.”  Perfection: it is a standard that we all know we cannot keep.  Those who spend a great deal of time thinking about it are in real danger of driving themselves crazy.  It is this insistence of perfections that drives the “wretched urgency” that Michael Spencer, AKA the Internet Monk, used to opine about back in the day.

But we humans have a hard time with not taking this the other direction entirely.  Since we know we can’t be perfect, we have developed whole theological systems that essentially say, “why bother.”  Jesus paid it all, you can do nothing; so just fall on Him and do nothing.  What’s wrong with this?  You are saved by grace and that not of works lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8).  Right?!?  So just sit back and relax and quit.  Be still and know that I am God, if you will.

It is the problem of all or nothing.  If all isn’t enough, then why bother.  If nothing will get me there, then why not.

I saw an interesting quote from Dallas Willard posted by a friend of mine.

“In most churches we’re not only saved by grace, we’re paralyzed by it. We’re afraid to do anything that might be a “work.” The funny thing is we will preach to people for an hour that they can’t do anything to be saved, and then sing to them for a half an hour trying to get them to do something. This is confusing. People need to see that action is a receptacle for grace, not a substitute for it. Grace is God acting in our lives to do things we can’t do on our own. Grace is not opposed to effort; it’s opposed to earning.” -Dallas Willard

This is the problem of all or nothing boiled down into a couple of sentences.  That same Bible that tells you that there is nothing you can do to earn salvation, still calls you to a life of service and obedience once you have been saved.  Keep reading from that quote I earlier pulled from Ephesians:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  – Ephesians 2:8-10

The problem is that if you don’t take all of Scripture to place a single verse in good context, you may find that nothing you say makes good sense.

We don’t handle this dilemma well.  Might I suggest a solution with a little humor in it.

“If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.” – G.K. Chesterton

Stop making it all or nothing.  God takes care of it all, but not so that you can do nothing until eternity.  Rest period doesn’t start until then.  In the meantime, do all that you can, badly if you must.

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Thoughts, Christianity, devotional, Discipleship, Faith, Fun, Grace, Humor, Love, Salvation, theology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

One Word 365 – Anavah

I really appreciated the One Word 2011 thing more than I ever could have expected last year.  I figured I would give it another run this year, but something funny happened.  The word that has really hit home with me is not an English word at all.  The word anavah is a Hebrew word that recently crossed my path courtesy of a blog post I read a couple of weeks back.  The simple “one word” meaning of the word anavah  would best be conveyed as humility, but the word carries more depth than that really.  As I read the post, a chord was struck by this simple idea that defines this term as he paraphrased the concept from another source:

Humility is occupying our proper space, neither too much, nor too little.

I have given this a lot of thought over the last few weeks.  My initial thought was that I struggle with pride, but the more I considered this, the more I think it is the opposite.  I am uncomfortable taking pride in the talents that God has given me and the gifts that he has blessed me with as well.  I took stock of the times that I can remember when people have commented on these things and I have developed some “stock answers” that are essentially holy sounding deflections to avoid the issue.

I realize that I am not the first person to grapple with this concept.  Maybe there have even been songs written about it.  I am not sure what this word will look like for me in the year ahead.  But I am ready to embrace it. 

Anavah

It shows up in this passage from Zephaniah 2:3:

3Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land,
who do his just commands;
 seek righteousness; seek humility;
perhaps you may be hidden
on the day of the anger of the LORD.

The word humility in this verse is the Hebrew word, anavah, and we are told to seek it.  So that is what I plan to do this year, seek anavah and what that looks like in my life of faith on the journey following the Master.  Thanks for sharing in it with me.

Categories: Anavah, Bible Thoughts, devotional, Discipleship, Faith, Growth, Hebrew, Humility, ministry, One Word, personal | 3 Comments

Mercy, Judgment, and All that Falls Between

Sunday night after we had arrived back home from a longer than expected return trip from the Black Hills, I pretty much just wanted to veg out and then head to bed a little early perhaps.  But that plan was interrupted by a text message from my sister that simply said:

R U watching the news?

It took a few seconds to switch on the TV and flip to Fox News, only to see Geraldo (who Rush jokingly refers to as “the grim reaper” for his ubiquitous presence in announcing celebrity deaths) and a crawl that announced that Bin Laden had been killed.

There are no words to convey what was going through my mind at that point.  I couldn’t have said much or typed anything.  In fact, I missed sending out a weekday devotional post completely on Monday from a complete inability to process or write anything useful (this blog has been on a slightly longer hiatus of the same sort).  The next day, I ended up writing a devotion for the Tuesday edition that addressed some of these feelings.  All of my friends on facebook seemed to have something to say about the matter and the opinions ran along a pretty varied continuum.  Blog posts were written and things were shared from every corner, but all I could put down at first was this post for Tuesday’s devotional.  While this could be a shameless plug for the devotional, I will just repost it here as well:

When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices,
and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness.  – Proverbs 11:10

After the news broke about the death of Bin Laden Sunday night, I had kind of a conflicted feeling about the scenes of celebration that I was witnessing.  I understand the sentiment to be sure; as this proverb indicates, this is a natural reaction to such an event.  I also noticed many people quoting various Bible verses both “pro” celebration and “con” celebration, which might lead some to think the Bible is a bit contradictory about this type of thing.  But that only comes from a failure to recognize the difference between commandments and observation.  The Bible observes the truth, we tend to celebrate when we feel someone gets “what’s coming to them” in whatever way that manifests.  That isn’t a commandment however.  We are encouraged to mourn the demise of the wicked and to seek their repentance and warn them of judgment if given an opportunity to do so.  God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked either and we are to take our cues from His standards and His perspective.  We shouldn’t rejoice in the death of the wicked and when we do it is another reminder of God’s perfect character juxtaposed against our own fleshly nature.

Take this time as a reminder of the fact that God loved each of us while we were still His enemy and wicked in His sight.

6For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  – Romans 5:8

A few weeks back in Bible study at our church, we were talking about the passage in the book of James where he states that “mercy triumphs over judgment.”  There has been a lot of talk about this lately in fact with Rob Bell’s book proclaiming that “Love Wins” and seeming to say that judgment will never come.  But while we are commanded to love and forbidden to judge, God is perfect in love and in judgment and has the authority to administer both.  He will judge, both the living and the dead.  His judgment is sure, more sure than the CIA or the Navy Seals or a human court or any other judgment on this earth.

In that verse I mentioned from James, we are told that judgment is “without mercy to him who has shown no mercy” and Jesus taught this same principle in Matthew 18:23-35.  Why do I share it here?  As much as we are tempted to condemn Bin Laden or someone else that we feel “deserves it,” we should never imagine that we are any better or different.  Yet, God’s rich mercy has flowed to each of us through His Son, Jesus Christ.  If you have received mercy, you must give it as well.  Leave judgment and all that falls short of mercy to the only One who is qualified to mete it out.

Categories: America, Apologetics, Bible Thoughts, Christianity, church, Culture, devotional, Discipleship, Gospel, Kingdom, Law, Messiah, politics, Questions, Salvation, theology, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Truly Firm Foundation

Those who read here much will know that I have a fondness for highlighting things that affirm the biblical narrative or history of Scripture.  There are so many things out there that I would never dream of including them all, but I stumbled across this lecture about the accuracy of the historical details in the Gospels that was simply fascinating to me (hat tip: Rosh Pina Project).  This is great stuff and the guy giving the information is entertaining and engaging.  It is a little under and well worth the time.

I am reminded of Peter’s words in 2 Peter 1:16-21:

16For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Thoughts, Christianity, Discipleship, Faith, Gospel, Questions, theology, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When the Queen Kills the King – Check Please

From the title you might be guessing that this is a post about chess.  Sorry, but no.  It is a title about bad sermons with an attempt at a witty headline, but it got you this far so you might as well keep reading.

It is said that theology is the “Queen of the sciences,” and indeed that is so, but it is dangerous when someone mistakes the “queen” for the King.  I recently heard a sermon where the preacher didn’t bother to quote from Scripture, aside from a couple of “glancing” mentions of two verses without citing what they even were.  The sermon was based on the work of three theologians and their pontification on the death of Christ.  I hesitate to give a great number of details about the sermon, firstly because it made no real significant point and secondly, because details might more readily identify the subject and I don’t wish to make this a personal issue.

I am certain that I will never desire to hear this person preach again, but it isn’t because I have any animosity toward the preacher.  I just don’t see any point in “preaching” that doesn’t start, abide and end within the Word of God itself.

1And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.   – 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

There is nothing wrong with theology.  It certainly is the “queen of the sciences.”  It was so named because of the assertion that it is “the first among pursuits of knowledge, since it was believed that all other pursuits were vitally linked to its dictates.”  But it is beyond credible to place the pontifications of theologians above the very Scripture that should be under-girding the arguments they make.  Don’t base a sermon on the words of a few theologians who gave their opinions on why Christ had to die while asking the question “why did Christ have to die?”  Go to Scripture and find the answer there!

1Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  – 1 Corinthians 15:1-5

Paul didn’t beat around the bush about this.  He said that Christ died “for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.”  This means that the reason Christ had to die is in Scripture.  In fact, it is all over the place in the Old Testament since that is the Scriptures that Paul is referring to; but in the New Testament, you find the writers working again and again to explain these things, just as Jesus had taught them Himself.  It may not be easy to follow or understand for everyone, but it is there.  Read the book of Hebrews for a blow by blow discussion or look at other epistles like 1 John or 1 Peter for smaller explanations or statements.

This comes back to my original point.  Don’t spend so much time talking about the queen, that you take the King from His throne.  Theology is wonderful and can give us interesting conversations and loads of speculation, but she can never replace the King of Kings and she certainly doesn’t belong in His place.  When some well meaning preacher allows the “queen” to kill the King, I am going to check out every time.  I may not be able to get up and walk out (although don’t put it past me), but I won’t be there anymore mentally.  Actually, in this case, I picked up the Bible in the pew in front of me and started to read a little bit.  I figured if the guy delivering the sermon wasn’t going to read from the Bible in church at least I would. Suddenly, I found myself wishing that the guy had heard of this place before.

Here is a small piece of advice for young preachers or even old preachers who feel the need to awe others with your seminary knowledge and the ability to name-drop an obscure 12th century theologian for effect; DON’T.  I don’t use caps lightly here.  Listen.  Stick to God’s Word.  It has and will stand the test of time and it is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”(2 Timothy 3:16b-17)  People don’t need the “doctors of theology,” as much as they need the Great Physician.

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Thoughts, Christianity, church, Culture, devotional, Discipleship, Faith, Gospel, Kingdom, Messiah, ministry, theology, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Holding Fast to the Truth

I have gone back and forth on whether or not to even say anything about this story in the news, but I think I will share a little something.  With all the flap out there about Rob Bell’s new book, this is almost a side issue, but I think it is an important one.  Many of the “mainline” denominations have been struggling in recent years to hold onto a biblical orthodoxy.  Various denominations have caved on issues like homosexuality and even the “exclusivity” of Christ as the only Way of salvation.  For that reason, I am actually a little surprised to hear that a Methodist church fired their pastor for echoing Bell’s universalism.

It was just a couple of years ago that we had a Methodist campus “pastor” come and speak at a baccalaureate, put together by the ministerial association here in town, and essentially espouse a similar type of message.  She asserted that various faiths like Hindu, Baha’i, Buddhism, Islam and so forth all espoused some variation of the “golden rule” and believed in “god.”  Of course, she wasn’t much for mentioning Jesus Christ and hedgingly referred to a Creator a few times.   It is the Methodist church that has been running the “open doors, open hearts, open minds” ad campaign for several years now as well.  I have been worried about my brothers and sisters in the Methodist church from recent experiences.

The pastor in question mentioned in the story that he had expressed some other “controversial views” recently:

Church members had also been unhappy with Internet posts about subjects like gay marriage and the mix of religion and patriotism, Holtz said, and the hell post was probably the “last straw.” Holtz and his family plan to move back to Tennessee, where he’ll start a job and maybe plant a church.

“So long as we believe there’s a dividing point in eternity, we’re going to think in terms of us and them,” he said. “But when you believe God has saved everyone, the point is, you’re saved. Live like it.”

When someone makes a statement like this and declares to be a follower of Christ, I have to ask myself what Bible they are reading.  Are they reading the Gospels?  If they are, they don’t believe them.  Jesus made exactly this distinction over and over again.  Sheep and goats, wheat and tares, and others are exactly and precisely about a dividing line and a demarcation.  To declare otherwise is nothing short of an attempt to gut the teachings of Christ.

We cannot compromise the truth and we can’t rewrite the words of Jesus to make them more comfortable for our generation.  We are not “new” or special.  There is nothing new under the sun.  Those who reject the God who is will always seek to make a god to suit themselves of their own design.  It’s called idolatry and it still happens today.

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Thoughts, Christianity, church, Culture, Faith, False Teachers, Gospel, Grace, Heresy, Love, Messiah, ministry, Salvation, theology, Truth, Yeshua | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

When Things Seem Hidden Away

Last night was the celebration of Purim among the Jewish people and those who embrace the Jewishness of our faith in Yeshua.  I have been reflecting on the story of Esther again and after reading a post at another blog a little bit ago it hit me a little harder.  We often get the impression that we must be in the spotlight to help others, so much so that many in our culture tend to seek out fame or influence as a means of “helping” people.

I am thinking of the young sports talents who look to “get big” so they can “give back” by helping others and those who seek celebrity and so on and so forth.  But we don’t have to be a celebrity or wealthy or of huge reputation to be involved in Kingdom business.  In fact, God delights in using those who are of no reputation.

Esther is unique in that God’s name does not appear anywhere in the text.  God chooses to work “behind the scenes” and out of view in this story.  In the book of Esther, Mordecai does a great service to the king by revealing a plot against his life; and while it would seem that it is Esther who is the “spotlight” person of influence, it is Mordecai, the unnamed fasting Jewish people, and most importantly God (whose name never appears remember), who are key to the story.

God may seem hidden at times.  The book of Esther and her story, reminds us that even when God seems hidden, He is still at work.  He is always at work.  Let us not be tempted to think that in order to accomplish big things we must be big.  God does not need the biggest or the most well known to accomplish His purpose.  He doesn’t even need you.  Rather, He will use the things that are hidden away, unknown, or of no reputation far more often than not.

 

Categories: Bible Thoughts, Christianity, church, devotional, Discipleship, Faith, Giving, Hebrew, Kingdom, Love, ministry, Yeshua | Tags: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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