Categories
encouragement praise theology

What did Christ finish?

Easter 2013 Message

by Pastor Stephen Daveystaff_davey_smile

John 19:30

There is nothing quite so profound as a person’s final words; especially when that person is aware that they are about to die.

Lady Astor was the first female member of the British House of Commons who used to tangle often with Winston Churchill. She was the woman in that famous conversation where she upbraided Churchill saying that if she were his wife, she’d poison his drink. To which Churchill famously responded, “And if I were your husband, I would drink it.” As she lay on her deathbed at the age of 85, she awakened to find her bed surrounded by her entire family. She grinned and said, “Either I am dying, or this is my birthday.”i

Frank Sinatra’s last words were spoken to his fourth wife – he simply looked up at her and said, “I’m losing” – and then died.ii

Queen Elizabeth I brought England to its greatest world power; literature, education, fashion and glamour flourished under her 40 year reign which ended in the 17th century. As she lay dying, she gasped her final words, “All my possessions for a moment of time.”iii

John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Abraham Lincoln, was finally chased down and trapped in a barn. As soldiers set fire to the barn, Booth was spotted and fatally wounded. After they pulled him out of the barn and away from the fire, Booth lay there with moments to live – he held up his hands and said, “Useless . . . useless.”iv

O. Henry, the famous short story writer and outspoken unbeliever said just before he died, “Turn up the lights – I don’t want to go . . . in the dark.”v

Contrast that to the last words of Charles Spurgeon, the London pastor from the 1800’s who died with these words on his lips – Jesus died for me.

And in His dying breath, Jesus Christ will say just a few words – so profound that believers have read them and studied them and have been nourished by them and strengthened and ready to face life and death because of them.

Why? Because they were words that played out the glory of the gospel in living color – first, with words of agony and separation and suffering, but finally – as he spoke for the last time – words of victory and satisfaction.

We have time for one of Christ’s seven final words or statements – let me invite you to the Gospel of John and chapter 19. Verse 28. After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, “I am thirsty.” 29. A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth. 30. Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.

If you compare the Gospel accounts, you discover seven things Jesus said during his crucifixion.Rembrandt TheThreeCrosses 1653

We’ll take time for this statement here in verse 30.

The ancient Greeks were proud of the fact that their universal language was able to communicate so much with so few words.

“To be able to give,” as one wrote “an ocean of matter in one drop of language.”vi

It is finished is only one word in the Greek language – tetelestai – one evangelical author wrote that this is the greatest single word ever uttered.vii

In this one word is wrapped up the Gospel of God.

If you’ve ever wanted to know how to be right with God – how to know you’re sins are forgiven – how to know that you can have heaven, guaranteed – it’s bound up in this one word.

It is finished.

And by the way, would you notice that Jesus did not say, “I am finished”, even though in less than 60 seconds he would.

He didn’t say, “I am finished,” but, “It is finished.”

Which is remarkable on a number of fronts, isn’t it?

How often can any of us say, “We finished something?”

I don’t know about you, but my “to-do” list isn’t getting any shorter – it’s getting longer.

I’ll never outrun it.

Think of how many times you’ve said, “I’ve started something” . . . but haven’t been able to say, “I finished it.”

I can remember as a college student, setting out in my spare time to be a salesman selling Amway products? How many others in here have a similar story of success?

Categories
Atheism, agnostic, evolution, etc. theology

Truly, there is a God who will be known.

Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?”   John 18:38Christ Almighty Vasnetsov

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”   John 14:6

Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness   Ephesians 6:14

We believe in truth. Truth is important. Arguably, truth is popular.  Bad guys lie. Good guys tell the truth. In a just court of law, truth is supposed to win. We want to know the truth and often pay top dollar to get “the truth,” particularly if we get it before others.

Why?

I’ve long found it ironic how militant atheists claim to be so passionate about what they claim to be true about God.  Why should they care?  If they’re correct and someone believes a falsehood, there’s no ultimate consequence because there are no ultimate consequences, aside from annihilation.  In contrast, if Christians are correct, there are eternal consequences for being wrong about the truth.

We know the truth in our hearts.  Perhaps it’s part of being made in the image of God.  Our fallen natures affects our relationship with the truth, yet the truth remains.

Nearly all people will speak in terms of what is true or otherwise presume that “truth” exists.  Yet, the fact that we’re certain truth exists proves something.

“Truth” presupposes God and consistent with that, Scripture makes it clear that truth is not just a “what.”  Truth is personal; truth is a “who.” The existence of “truth” proves there is God. Further, the Bible explains that Christ is the source and foundation of all truth, and is in fact truth incarnate.

Think about it.  If there is no God, i.e. a transcendent and eternal intelligence beyond our dimensions of space and time, then the materialists are most likely correct — everything we see happened by blind chance.  Mechanical processes led to what and to whom we are and what we believe.  But that cannot be.  Truth presupposes a transcendent standard.

If I smashed ten bottles, I would have ten smash patterns and a mess.  No more.  No less.  That’s it.  If I smashed ten million bottles, I’d have a bigger mess and larger smash pattern.  If I continued that smashing for billions and billions of years I can expect lots of patterns.  But that’s it.  It would neither be true or false.  It would just be.

If our reality is simply the result of random, unguided physical processes, we would be nothing more but an extremely complex and unlikely “smash pattern” of sorts.  No more.  No less.  The pattern is neither true, nor false.  It simply is. If we were simply an evolved mechanical pattern, there would be no apparent reason for our consciousness to create standards, let alone deeply felt standards, that transcend our smash pattern.  That would be pointless. But indeed, we hunger for more than accurate observations, we hunger for truth.

Notwithstanding the best efforts of Zen Buddhists, we’re hard-wired to believe in “truth.”  We pursue truth and we presuppose its existence. It’s such a natural part of what we are and how we’re made that we hardly question its existence.  Whether you believe in objective or subjective truth, it’s still “truth.”

The universe provides compelling reasons to encourage and corroborate our belief in truth.  Instead of finding random smash patterns, we find order and precision.  Everywhere.  There are ordered laws that govern and control how matter and time relate.  From where did such ordering come if not the mind of God?  Why would thoughtless, random time and matter promulgate any laws, let alone intricate and amazing laws and order from the uniform weighting of sub-atomic particles to the movement of universes.

There is a temporal aspect to truth. Truth was, is and will be. There is also an empirical form of truth.  From the tiniest particles to the largest galaxies, we do not find randomness.  We find order.  We can know where Jupiter will be tomorrow based on those laws. We can know that the snow forming in the clouds overhead will fall to earth.

The transcendent nature of truth becomes more apparent when we leave temporal observation in favor of non-observational truths.  Put in other words, we can “see” truth more when it “shows” itself in those things we cannot see. Truth exists beyond what we can see and measure.  For example, it’s self-evident that the statement “all knowledge is empirical” immediately collapses under its own self-contradiction.  Moral truths provide a “clean” example of transcendent truth, e.g. it is wrong to kill an innocent person. We “know” that is true. We do not need to observe murders to ascertain whether it is “wrong” or to derive a definition of “wrong.”

Transcendent truth runs even deeper than morality though, to the very forces that animate our existence.  In my experience, the most important truths at work in the lives of individuals are faith, hope and love.  Yet, faith, hope and love are not really “forces.” They are not empirical.  They transcend space and time, yet the reality or truth of faith, hope and love (or lack thereof) provide the greatest forces (or devastation) in our lives.  With neither faith, hope or love, a person perishes.

Finally, truth manifests most clearly in the person of Jesus Christ, whom scripture reveals as the truth.  Scripture teaches that through Him all things were made.  As explained above, time and space corroborate truth by the way Christ ordered and structured creation.  This certainty of ordering and being able to observe and know the ordering is the foundation of science. It is also the fingerprints of Christ.  Scripture also teaches that when Christ is in us, then we will be true.  Finally, the Word teaches that if we teach the truth, we teach the Gospel of Christ.  Christ was, is and forever will be the fount and foundation of truth. Outside Him, there is no truth.

We live, move and have our being in His creation.  His truth surrounds us and testifies to Him.  The soul’s hunger for the truth is no more and no less than its hunger for our eternal Lord, creator and savior Jesus Christ, the ultimate truth.  Amen!

Categories
praise theology Uncategorized

The greatest miracle … Merry Christmas!

Sapphire Sky

He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.  John 1:10

The infinite and awesome creator of the cosmos took the form of his own creation and subjected himself to the laws of time and death, to save those who rebelled against him.  God’s voluntary subjection to the rebellious brutality of His creation demonstrates the degree to which God hates original sin – pride and conceit.  He did not take the form of an invincible champion to subdue this treacherous and wicked world.  He did not condescend in regal majesty to awe mankind.  Although a tiny nation of chosen people anticipated his arrival, he did not arrive as a heralded conqueror.

Jesus came in the middle of the night as a helpless child.  To the world, God was born a poor child, not in a palace, but in a…

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Categories
theology

Genealogy of Jesus Christ

Does the difference in the genealogies of Jesus Christ in the gospels of Matthew and Luke present a problem for Christian faith by challenging historicity of Christ? Perhaps you have heard this difference explained by claiming that Matthew is tracing the ancestry of Christ’s father and Luke the ancestry of his mother. But that’s not the full story. In reality, both evangelists are tracing genealogy of Christ through his father, but Matthew follows the biological ancestry while Luke follows legal ancestry. This divergency exists because of a common ancient near eastern custom of levirate marriage. Since women in the ancient world did not have the right to own land, they risked losing all their property if their husbands died before they had a mature son. A mature male relative closest to her husband, however, could rescue the widow and her children from the doom of poverty by marrying her. This way he would preserve her estate, becoming her legal guardian and redeemer, but by doing so he would legally assume the identity of her deceased husband and would have to give up the rights to inheritance he could receive from his father. Such an act was often seen as heroic charity, especially if the redeemer came from a wealthier family, as it can be seen in the book of Ruth. Continue to read…

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encouragement praise theology video

The Gospel

Categories
encouragement theology

Now that Easter is over…

Easter Sunday has come and gone. As the sugar high wears off, we should take a chance to reflect.

What was it about?
Easter Bunny? White Crosses? Flowers? Going to church?

The more devout would answer that Jesus rose from the dead. But why?

Why did Jesus have to die?

Why would the God of the Universe submit himself to inhuman torture by one of the most cruel nations that ever existed? Why would God allow himself to be killed in one of the most barbaric and humiliating ways possible?

Why?

One of my favorite Bible passages about Jesus was written over 700 years before he was born. The prophet Isaiah wrote the following about Jesus’ suffering:

Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
(Isaiah 53:4-6)

The Apostle Peter repeats this in the New Testament:

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
(1 Peter 2:24-25)

Notice how little goodness we have to give God. We are nothing more than straying sheep.  There is nothing — absolutely nothing — that we can give to God to earn his favor.  (See also Titus 3:5)

But Jesus took all of this.  Not because he was weak, but because he was the only one who could.  All of this barbaric punishment, all of this blood and beating was meant for us. Jesus took the punishment that we deserve.

It would be just another tragedy if the story ended that Jesus died, but that is not the ending — Jesus is alive again!

That is what we celebrate at Easter — Jesus is alive!!!

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.
(1 Corinthians 15:20-21)

Categories
theology

God Came in the Appearance of an Illegitimate Child from Nowhere

He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.  John 1:10

The infinite and awesome creator of the cosmos took the form of his own creation and subjected himself to the laws of time and death, to save those who rebelled against him.  God’s voluntary subjection to the rebellious brutality of His creation demonstrates the degree to which God hates original sin – pride and conceit.  He did not take the form of an invincible champion to subdue this treacherous and wicked world.  He did not condescend in regal majesty to awe mankind.  Although a tiny nation of chosen people anticipated his arrival, he did not arrive as a heralded conqueror.

Jesus came in the middle of the night as a helpless child.  To the world, God was born a poor child, not in a palace, but in a feeding trough, among livestock, on dirt and straw.  Instead of conceived by God, they saw a shameful pregnancy. Instead of the Son of God, the World saw him as illegitimate.  Only Joseph, a poor carpenter, helped Mary through the pain of Jesus’ birth.  She did not lie on a clean bed.  No servants or doctors attended young Mary.  Her water and blood mixed with the manger dirt.  Instead of gold and trumpet blasts, he arrived in poverty, surrounded by manure. Heaven sang, but beyond a very few peasants, no one heard.  His first visitors were shepherds, who were of the lowest social cast of the time, men who were not deemed fit for entry into the Temple.  Mary and Joseph raised Jesus in Galilee, a remote backwater of Judea, which itself was a remote conquered territory of the Roman Empire.  He was the adopted son of a carpenter.  To the world, God incarnate was a nobody from nowhere.

When this apparent nobody left to fulfill his purpose on Earth, he surrounded himself with uneducated fishermen.  At the height of his ministry, he shared wine in fellowship with prostitutes, tax collectors and fishermen.  His acquaintances cannot be understated – tax collectors were vermin.  They were corrupt traitors who squeezed the wealth from their fellow countrymen on behalf of a pagan conqueror.  Jesus quickly made enemies of the important Jewish religious and legal leaders – the Pharisees and Sadducees.  He spent his time in the countryside and villages teaching commoners, healing the sick, and washing the feet of the fishermen and tax collectors who followed him.  He talked with prostitutes and gentiles.

Jesus Christ demonstrated that he did not come to conquer the rebellious heart of man, but rather he came as a humble servant to lay down his life for the rebellious sons of Adam and fallen daughters of Eve.  Along the way, he taught the heart of God’s law, cared for the poor and sick, displayed God’s wrath against the proud, changed the face of mankind, and performed countless miracles for those who placed their faith in him.

In the end, he was arrested, beaten, stripped, scourged, mocked, spat upon, abandoned by his closest friends, nailed to a cross and killed with common criminals on a barren hill outside the gates of Jerusalem.  They killed him outside the walls of Jerusalem because he was “unclean” for being crucified and therefore unfit to be within the walls of the holy city.  (Heb. 13:12-13.)

After being humiliated and savagely slaughtered, he proved his divine authority by defeating death.  He rose from the dead, demonstrating also that he paid the price of sin for all who would accept his sacrifice – all while being a servant of his Father’s will.  God came into His creation to serve and to die for those who rebelled against Him, to satisfy His law, so that we could live in the eternal presence of our creator and escape the penalty of our fallen nature.

Jesus completely and humbly poured himself out for those who did not deserve it.  Jesus changed the face of humanity and defeated death and sin, all as a nobody from nowhere.  Christ’s time on Earth was a miraculous demonstration of love, compassion, grace, and justice intertwined.  (Eph. 5:1; Phil. 2:1-3.)  Jesus changed the course of history and changes our eternal destination.  God’s ways are not the ways of the world, yet God calls us to his table, to be his family, and to act like Him through the strength of his Holy Spirit.

The birth of Christ will always be the foremost and greatest miracle for mankind.

Merry Christmas.

a child is born

Categories
theology

Fatherhood of God

Originally published at: https://truthonly.com/en/publications/18-fatherhood.html

Last year, I published an article on the uniqueness of Christianity to show that Christianity is fundamentally unlike any other world religion or philosophy. This new essay is bringing our discussion forward to a new unique and seldom explored area of Christian faith: the fatherhood of God. Human civilization, both in the East and the West, has been so profoundly moved and changed by Christianity that this idea hardly seems novel or radical today.

Of course, the idea that deity is like a father is not a Christian invention. The Old Testament has clear references to God as the Father (Jer 31:9 and Isa 63:16). And, almost every pagan religion designates a certain deity as the father or ascribes fatherly characteristics to it. The unique contibution of Christian faith is the new revlotuionary definition of divine Fatherhood.

Divine Fatherhood Is Not By Biological Descent

(1) First, Christianity (with Judaism) uniquely claims that divine Fatherhood is spiritual and not biological (John 1:12-13, cf. John 3). The pagans often described the creation of the world as a cosmic sexual or violent encounter between deities that somehow birthed them. This provided their nation with racist caste ideology, in which the people on top were considered demigods. Pharaoh claimed that he was the “son of Ra,” Greek and Roman warlords that they were “sons of Zeus” or Saturn or Mars, and the viking pillagers that they were “sons of Odin.” The claim to divine descent was their theological justification for abuse of power and mistreatment of others due to their obvious victories granted by the favoritism of gods. To pagans, the divine fatherhood was sexual, sensual, and literal. Their gods came to earth to have sex with women and procreate.

This is where, by the way, Mohammad completely misses the boat on understanding Jesus (Surah 4:171 and 5:116, cf. Surah 72:3), thinking that Christians claimed that Mary was God’s literal wife like pagans would teach. Contrast these verses from Quran with the words of apostle John: “But to all who have received him – those who believe in his name – he has given the right to become God’s children – children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God.” We see clearly from this verse that divine Fatherhood is spiritual and not biological and that it is a result of new birth by faith (John 3). This idea is original, Christian and only Christian.

Divine Fatherhood Is Available To All Believers

(2) Second, Christianity uniquely claims that divine Fatherhood is universally available through Christ (Mat 6:9 and Luke 11:2). Joachim Jeremias contributed the most to the study of divine Fatherhood by devoting his best effort to uncover the significance of Christ’s calling God “Abba.” In his monstrous and detailed research, Jeremias uncovers that, despite numerous descriptions of deities as fathers, there are no extant records of believing communities addressing their deity as their “father” in worship. When Christ taught his disciples to pray “Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name,” he was turning the world upside down. Every Christian can address God as their Father!

The skeptics, of course, will claim that those words were later inventions inserted into the Bible. The burden of proof, however, still rests on them to explain how and why the early Church, being a jewish sect worshipping at the temple in Jerusalem, would so quickly and radically depart from traditional Judaism in this regard. There is no pagan syncretism in the Lord’s Prayer, which is associated with Christ before the writing of any of the books of the New Testament (Titus 3:4-7 is an early hymn) and present in the earliest liturgical texts before Constantine.

Divine Fatherhood Is The Cause Of Salvation

(3) Third, Christianity uniquely claims that divine Fatherhood is the direct cause of human salvation (Rom 8:15-17, cf. Titus 3:4-7, Gal 4:6-7). Jesus came to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven to Earth. Jeremias argues that Christ’s addressing God as the Father is primarily connected with eschatological salvation in the context of the coming Kingdom. In plain English: Christian understanding of salvation, as it was preached by Christ, is based on the idea of inheritance. Christ preached that God the Father will establish his Kingdom on Earth, and His children will inherit it.

One of the earliest Christian writings is the book of Galatians, dating to about 45-60 A.D., reads: “But when the appropriate time had come, God sent out his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we may be adopted as sons with full rights. And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, who calls “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if you are a son, then you are also an heir through God” (Gal 4:4-7). All those who believe in Christ will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Rom 8:15-17). Inheritance is salvation attainable by faith and is universally available to everyone who believes in Christ. This idea is original, Christian and only Christian.

Conclusion

Those unique contributions to understanding of God are the result of Christ’s preaching. Before Jesus, no one knew God intimately as their Father. After Jesus, no one can claim that God is their Father unless they accept Jesus as the Son. True are the words of apostle John who said: “No one has ever seen God. The only one [Jesus], himself God, who is in closest fellowship with the Father, has made God [the Father] known [to us]” (John 1:18).

Categories
encouragement theology

Questions

Can I trust God for what he says?

What if it doesn’t make sense? What if God’s word goes against everything I understand? Can I still trust him?

What if God’s word makes me look foolish to others? Can I still trust him?

 

Am I close enough to God to hear him over the roar of life?

Do I hear him over the council of friends?

Do I hear him over my own prejudices? What if the answer is not what I want to hear?

 

Why do I read God’s word?

When was the last time I let it criticize me?

What did I change?

How long did the change last?

How has it helped me to serve others?

How has it helped me to serve God?

Categories
encouragement theology

Stress overload?

How many times have you gotten into stress overload this week?

I found this reminder at the end of a very stressful week:

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.

Isaiah 26:3-4

The word “mind” used here could also be translated as our thoughts or intentions.  Likewise, the word “stayed” could be translated as leaned or rested.

Therefore, the encouragement here is that we need to rest our thoughts and our plans on God.  When we are sure that we are leaning on God with our plans, then we can have peace regardless of what happens with these plans.  It is now up to God and not up to us.

How much time do we spend talking with God about our plans?

Do we allow God to give us input?

Do we search out His Word for what he would want us to learn?

Do we trust God with the results?

If you are like me, this is very difficult to put into practice.  I often put put together my plans and then quickly go into action.  It is only after I failed that I realized that I never included God in my planning.

Thought for this week: Spend some time each day simply talking with God about your plans.  Be listening for Him to answer.

Categories
theology World etc.

The End Is Near!

Harold Camping has been in recent headlines as he predicts that the world will end this Saturday: May 21, 2011.

For those who don’t get to read this post until after Saturday, my apologies. Camping was wrong.

Actually, Camping says that May 21 is the first day of Judgement. The world will not be destroyed until 5 months later. Camping arrived at these figures by combining two Bible verses and a lot of date calculations. See specific details below.

Jesus himself warns us to not predict when he will return:

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”
Matthew 24:36

Despite this warning, there is a long line of people in history who have attempted to predict when Jesus will return.  Camping is not alone.  So far, not one of them has been correct.

One such man in the early 1800’s was William Miller.  Miller had calculated that Jesus would return on October 22, 1844 (revised from March 22).  Several of Miller’s followers had sold their farms and stood with Miller on that night in October. That night would go down among these followers as “The Great Disappointment”.  Afterward, some of Miller’s followers revised their understanding of these events and began the movement that we now know of as the Seventh-day Adventist Church.  See here for more details.

I was in college when a popular booklet was distributed, entitled, “88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988″.  The author, Edgar C. Whisenant, had done extensive research into arriving at the conclusion that the Rapture would occur on September 1988.  I can recall my pastor at the time critiquing Whisenant’s findings, yet commending him on his scholarship.  But Whisenant was mistaken and the rapture did not take place in 1988.

Even in our more recent past, several people believed that Jesus would return in the year 2000.  (This belief was often in conjunction with the widespread fear of Y2K computer failures).

Harold Camping himself had originally predicted that the world may end in 1994.  Once again, the passage of time has shown these people to be mistaken.

Why does Camping believe that the world will end on May 21, 2011? Camping bases his conclusions on the following premises:

  1. Amos 3:7 says that “The Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets“.  Camping takes this as a promise that God will reveal the timetable of the world’s end.
  2. In Genesis 7:4, God is commanding Noah to enter the Ark and says, “For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground“.  Camping takes from this that God will destroy the world in “Seven Days” after Noah entered the Ark.
  3. 2 Peter 3:8 says that, “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day“.  Camping combines this with the Genesis account above to conclude that the “seven days” from Genesis 7:4 really mean 7,000 years.  Therefore, he concludes that the world will be destroyed exactly 7,000 years after Noah entered the Ark.
  4. Camping has concluded “by careful study of the Bible” that the flood occurred on May 21, 4990 B.C.  Therefore, 7,000 years later will be May 21, 2011.

Camping has done a lot of calculations in order to arrive at this date.  However, he has these problems in each of the above premises:

  1. He uses Amos 3:7 to prove that God will show us his timetable.  Amos 3 is warning Israel of their pending judgement.  But God also promises that he will deliver a warning through his prophets before sending judgement to Israel — a warning that God is currently doing through Amos.  There is no basis for extending the prophecy in Amos 3 beyond the Old Testament judgement on wicked Israel.  Also, Camping is equating himself (and his followers) with the Old Testament prophets.  He makes this conclusion without any basis.
  2. He uses Genesis 7:4 to set a timetable for the end of the world, yet the context of Genesis 7 is God’s command to Noah personally.  He has a week to get himself and all the animals onto the Ark.  There is no indicator here that the “7 days” has a further meaning beyond the worldwide flood of Noah’s day.
  3. He uses 2 Peter 3:8 to translate the “7 days” above to 7,000 years.  In addition to the problem mentioned above with trying to stretch the command to Noah beyond the flood, Camping is being inconsistent with translating days into thousands of years.  For example, why translate the 7 days waiting for the rain as 7,000 years, but not translate the 40 days of rain as 40,000 years?  2 Peter is not a tool to convert timetables from days to thousands of years.  Instead, a better understanding of of 2 Peter 3  is to look at 3:8-9 and realize that God will keep his promises, even if it takes a thousand years!
  4. He says that he discovered that the flood occurred on 4990 B.C. “by careful study of the Bible”.  Unfortunately, I could not find any information to support his claims for why he has so definitively chosen 4990 B.C. (There is an option to order a free book with these details, but I fear that they will not be able to ship it if the world ends).  This date is much older than any research that I have done, and it is in conflict with other Bible scholars who date the flood at approximately 2304 B.C.  See the link here for specific details on 2304 B.C.

You can see the full details on Camping’s treatise here.

What are the consequences of making predictions like this?  Unfortunately, there are two groups that are hurt by false predictions:

The first group is Camping’s followers.  Like William Miller in the 1800’s, false predictions can leave a trail of disillusioned followers.  Many of these people have contributed greatly to his cause, selling property and contributing to help spread his message.  These people have put their credibility on the line for a belief without a solid basis.  Like Miller’s followers in the 1800’s, this disillusionment can be fertile ground for new false teachings.

The second group that is hurt are those who are lost.  The mockery of a Christian leader grows as the word spreads about this prediction. Christians lose their credibility and the lost have one more obstacle in their way before they will listen to the truth about Jesus.  Regardless of attitudes, we need to pray for those around us.

What should we do?

The best advice comes from reading the rest of 2 Peter 3:

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. 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. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Wait for Christ’s Return!

Be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and be at peace!

Don’t be carried away by the error of false teaching!

Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Jesus can come today, tomorrow, Saturday, or any day after that!  Until he returns!

Categories
theology

Worldwide War Reports and Gilgamesh’s Flood

My mother’s father told of a great war in the 1940s and what it was like to be blown off the deck of a battleship in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  My father’s father would tell what it was like to be in the German Luftwaffe in Northern France during the late 1930s and labeled a traitor for criticizing Hitler in the 1940s in Germany during a great war.  My father’s uncle would tell what it was like to fight and freeze in Russian and be captured and sent to Siberia in a great war in the 1940s.  It was also told that another of my great uncles died in a battle outside Stalingrad in the 1940s.  All these different stories told about a great worldwide war in the 1940s.  Very different stories.  It would be absurd, however, for me to conclude that these stories were false because they reported different events from a great war.  It would be doubly absurd for me to conclude that these different stories indicate that in fact there was no great war.

Of course, that would be absurd if I was using such reasoning to disclaim that there was a historical cataclysmic worldwide war.  If, however, I was using such reasoning to disclaim the existence of a historical, cataclysmic worldwide flood, I would be a respected academic.  Steve Ham provides an excellent analysis on how ancient records to include The Gilgamesh Epic support the Scriptural history of the worldwide flood here.  A telling well worth the reading.

Categories
culture entertainment theology

Save the planet!

Save the planet!

Be kind to the earth!

This common theme runs throughout contemporary American culture.  You see it all the time in popular music,  movies, and television shows.

This issue gets hotly debated, especially across political lines.

But how often do we look to see what God has to say about the issue?

I came across this passage in Leviticus:

“Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean, and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. But you shall keep my statutes and my rules and do none of these abominations … lest when you make it unclean, as it vomited out the nation that was before you.

So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs that were practiced before you, and never to make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God.”

-Leviticus 18:24-30

WARNING: This chapter in Leviticus contains a list of some of the most disgusting, vile, and deviant practices to ever be recorded in Scripture. But what is the warning? Don’t do these things “lest the land vomit you out“!

Few of us would even think to stoop to the level of depravity in Leviticus 18. But let’s celebrate the earth that God has given us by keeping our lives pure!

Categories
praise theology

Soli Deo Gloria – Salvation

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:4 -9

God’s creation walked away and rebelled against Him.  It is through Christ’s blood and the grace of God that we are saved from the consequence of our rebellion and inherent sin nature.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8, 9

Romans 6:23: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus.

As a lawyer, I “get” the debt of sin we accrue.  Christ explained to a young lawyer that the foundation of the law could be summed up in two maxims: love God with all that you are and love others as you would love yourself.  In law, those two maxims are referred to as “affirmative duties.”  They create an obligation to do something.  Whenever you fail to perform your obligation you break the law.  Accordingly, every time we fail to love God with all that we are or love others (to include our enemies) as much as we love ourselves, we sin.  That means our sins are constantly accruing.  During our “best” moments when we’re loving selflessly and/or praising God with a pure heart and righteous behavior, we’re simply not sinning.

I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. John 6:47

It’s not about us. We had nothing to do with our creation.  Our present life was an unearned gift.  We didn’t choose or earn the right to live.  We didn’t select this time, this place, or these bodies.  Life was a gift, which we cherish.

Eternal life is also a gift from God.  Our original sin was turning away from God and looking to our own ways, our own wisdom.  The world’s false religions teach us how we can or should warrant God’s approval.  That is the first principle of sin and Satan’s lie – look to ourselves first.  The way that seems “right” by our own reckoning is the path of destruction, for we are creatures of wrath warranting destruction from the eternal and perfect Creator.

Creation and salvation are about what God has already done through Jesus Christ.

Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!‘  Mt. 7:21-23

Testimonies on the day of judgment about how well we lived and what we did for Christ will be a denial of God’s grace.  Such testimony will reveal a soul still self-focused and oblivious to the mountain of sin in our lives.  On the day of judgment, those who rely upon themselves and what they did will be cast away as evildoers.

Jesus said, “only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”  God’s will is for us to place our faith in him, in Christ, and not in ourselves. We are to look to our Lord.  Even in the Old Testament, the story is told over and over again.  God called his people to look to and rely upon Him.  Repeatedly, the people of Israel looked to their own ways, which repeatedly led to their misery and destruction.

Our salvation is to God’s glory only.  It’s all about Jesus.  It’s not about us.  Salvation is entirely through the holy blood of Christ, it is not about our sweat.  And the fantastic thing is, there is great, perfect and lasting pleasure in enjoying and praising God’s grace and perfection.  People praise because we were designed for it and it feels great.  Indeed it does.  Praise Christ, our Savior.

Categories
politics, economy, etc. theology

It’s all about me

Then the lust, when it has conceived, bears sin; and the sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death. James 1:15

Representative Christopher Lee recently resigned from Congress after his overtures, fraudulent representations, and shirtless photos to a woman he found on Craigslist were exposed.  The Congressman was married.  See New York Congressman Resigns Over E-Mails The incident is a sober reminder of basic truths regarding sin.

Foremost, unrepentant sin exposes and destroys.  Sin is a cancer that ravages and eats away what is good.  Even sins from which we repent can continue causing destruction for long periods of time thereafter, both to the sinner and to those whom it affected.  While Christ’s blood washes away the weight and spiritual consequences of sin, the scars and temporal repercussions may be with us until our final breath, or Christ’s return.  Mr. Lee was at the height of his career, a national leader in the prime of his life. That’s all gone.  Career is over; he’s shamed; his name is sullied, and his family is likely devastated.

Which leads directly to a second nature of sin.  It’s insatiable.  Being a US Congressman with a beautiful family wasn’t enough.  While Christ is the living water and bread of life, sin only creates a deeper hole in our being that demands more and more to be filled.  It temporarily satiates, but the hunger returns quickly and more fiercely. There is no lasting peace or enduring joy in sin.  Sin is a ferocious lion whose end purpose is destruction.  Sin only feeds its own hunger, until it devours all whom it touches.

Third, sin is always self-centered.  The NYT’s article does an excellent job “showing” this truth. The story shows a picture the Congressman sent to the woman — a self-portrait Mr. Lee took of himself posing in the mirror, flexing his muscles.  His intentions for pursuing this woman are obvious and too common to the nature of man.  His shirtless posturing in front of the mirror captures his utter vanity, the essence of sin.  Sin starts with focusing on the self and taking our eyes off of Christ.  Sin always focuses on the self first.  If we focus on God and the needs of others before ourselves, sin falls away.  Such focus comes from Christ; it is not of the flesh.

Sin leads to suffering and death. This is appropriate.  Suffering breaks us and causes us to realize that we are not in control or in charge. It causes us to take our focus off ourselves and to reach out to God.  It was for good reason that the lost and downtrodden sought out Christ and worshipped him, while the powerful and mighty plotted against Christ.  At the end, death is the final reminder we cannot ignore that we are not in control.  God is.  And he offers the bread of life, the true source of peace and strength.

Please say a prayer for Mr. Lee and especially for his family.

Categories
theology

The Scandal of the Christ Child

For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. Matthew 23:12

The King of Creation, born a powerless babe to peasants in backwater Judea, itself a backwater of Rome, appearing to the world as nothing more than a poor bastard child. Welcomed by the company of livestock and the lowliest of men. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross!

On December 19, Dr. Doug Bookman gave an impromptu sermon on the birth of Christ, specifically, on The Scandal of the Manger, and in the course of doing so explained relevant portions of contemporaneous Jewish culture and assailed several Christmas myths.  He spent a good amount of time explaining the prominence of the betrothal and marriage ceremony during the times of Mary and Joseph.  The marriage ceremony was a prolonged, multi-day celebration.  The event was known throughout the community and all were expected to express their support and enthusiasm.  The betrothal period was a time of anticipation as the families prepared for the celebration.

What utter shame and humiliation Mary and Joseph endured when Mary returned to Nazareth pregnant during her betrothal, and not with Joseph’s child.  It was a shame, Dr. Bookman contends, that caused them to permanently move to Joseph’s familial home of Bethlehem where Mary stayed until the time for her to give birth.  Luke 2:6.

Was Mary rejected from a public inn as conventionally told?  Dr. Bookman says “no.”  He contends that translators misinterpret Luke 2:7 when they say there was no room in the “inn” for them.  He says, it should say that there was no upper room or guest room for them.  According to Dr. Bookman, there was no such thing as an “inn” in the cities of first century Judea.  The same Greek word is used in other places throughout the NT where it is accurately translated as guest room or upper room.  See. e.g. Luke 22:11 (the guest room where Jesus held the last supper).  An upper room or guest room was an extra room families kept for honored guests.  Luke 2:6 suggests that Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem some amount of time before Mary gave birth.  Dr. Bookman believes Joseph’s family refused to host Joseph with his betrothed and pregnant wife in their room for honored guests.  Betrothed and pregnant, Joseph and Mary were anything but honorable to their kin and fellow Jews.  The best Joseph’s relatives would give them was a manger (livestock cave) on the outskirts of town. This fits the Christmas story perfectly: hardship and humility.

God mocks what we too often take for wisdom and despises man’s pride.  When God sent his son to save mankind from sin, to show mankind our Lord, he sent the Christ child to be born in the backwater province of a pagan empire.  In the backwater province, the King was conceived in one of the poorest and most remote locations.  The wife and her husband were the poorest of poor, essentially peasants and nothing resembling human royalty.  And the pregnancy was completely scandalous.  The pregnancy shamed Mary and Joseph before all of Nazareth, all of Mary’s family.  When they left Nazareth for Bethlehem, Joseph’s family rejected close fellowship with them and sent them to live with the livestock.  Sorry, we can’t put you in our guest bedroom (what would the neighbors say?), but y’all can stay in our barn on the back 40.  The Christ child was born under shameful circumstances and in squalor.  His first visitors were shepherds, the poorest and least esteemed among the Israelites. 

Welcome Lord Jesus, creator of the Universe.  Of course, this is exactly what God planned and intended and revealed through prophesies over hundreds of years.  But who would have thought THAT’s what the prophecies meant?  And few could fathom that this all-powerful King would conquer through being tortured and crucified.  He confounds the proud.  Indeed, the proud never noticed the birth of Christ. 

It is that way still.

The God of creation became flesh under the most humble of circumstances.  That God became flesh is THE miracle.  If you can have faith that the Christ child was the begotten son of God, all the rest of the New Testament, indeed, of the entire Bible, is easy to believe. 

Merry Christmas!

See also I Wonder if We Wonder by Doug Bookman.

Categories
encouragement praise theology

Forever

“No matter how great your pain is right now, it is not forever.”

I heard this quote from my pastor recently. The lesson is about our Eternal State with God himself. Forever.

We are reminded in Scripture to to focus on the forever.  The problems that we encounter here and today are nothing compared to the Forever.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, while we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are unseen are eternal. – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

I am reminded again and again how little I know about life.  I cannot even manage my own problems this week, let alone my entire life.  And my life is much more fortunate than many.

How little I know.

How little we all know about life.

We look at life as if it is about to crush us down.  We look at what we see, hear, and touch, and define this as our life.

We measure ourselves by our accomplishments and our pains that we encounter.

How little we know.

God has not made us for this 70-year span here on earth.  We are meant to be with him.  Forever.

What will life be like when finally see God?  How little will we care about our day-to-days pains from here on earth?

We will have stepped out of the shadows and will finally get to experience the REAL life.

Forever!

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:3-4

No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. – Revelation 22:3


Categories
Atheism, agnostic, evolution, etc. culture humor theology

I Have A Confession…

I have a confession to make…in an ever-growing culture of sound bites and video clips, I find that my life reveals “clips” that show a side of me I prefer not be known. In my role as pastor and missionary, I want people to see nothing but a courageous, faith-filled follower of Christ. My hope is that no one can see my occasionally faltering faith. Perhaps I have done a good job so far… or have I? So whether those clips have been observed or not, I have a confession I must reveal.

Before I make my transparent admission, let me tell you about the last 24 hours. Here’s the gist – I have been pursued by a loving God to face a weakness in my walk with Him. Yesterday, after a 40-day ordeal with our aging mini-van, the car broke down again. (What’s sad is that I merely drove it away from the auto shop that just finished repairing the problem. Just 10 miles down the road…viola! ) Trust God is all things? At that moment to any observer the “clip” of my life would reveal anything but a man of faith. I’m amazed to realize how God gets most of the blame for a car not running. Been there and definitely done that!

Then it happened…a long time friend drove up, offered help. However, I politely dismissed his help due to the tow truck on its way (and partly out of embarrassment). He drove away and I sat back down in the van waiting for the tow truck. (I think the driver and I are on first name basis now!) After a few minutes I decided to text the would-be Good Samaritan to thank him for stopping and offering help. But at that moment, he drove up again, jumped out of his car and declared he was not going to leave me stranded. There in the pouring rain, he assessed the problem and sought to make the minor repair to get me back on the road.

After some elbow grease and finding the right tools, the van’s engine purred back to its rustic self. My friend had accomplished what he set out to do. He even followed back me to the auto shop to drop off the car. (I felt this was my only option since the gun shop was closed!) And then he offered me a ride home. Later that night I reflected on the fact that while I was playing the blame game with God, He Himself was already in motion to show His power and care for me. My friend embodied Christ’s love in the flesh for which I am very grateful.

This morning I listened to another long time friend teach from Matthew 6:25-34 about trusting God in all matters rather than worry. This was a timely encounter with God on the subject. As I reflected on this truth I discovered that the last 24 hours revealed a great weakness in my walk with Christ.

So I have a confession (actually two):
First – there are times in my walk with Christ that I act like a Practicing Atheist. Yes, really! I view God as if He does not have control of anything in this world. He might as well be powerless to work on my behalf. Then He sends a Good Samaritan by to prove His power. But that’s not all…

Second – there are times in my Christian experience that I become a Brooding Agnostic. I see God as if He doesn’t care about my circumstances. “Hey, Lord, we’re having a crisis here, jump in anytime you desire…preferably now!” Have I dropped down on His list of priorities? Was I ever on it? Then He sends a Good Samaritan by to show how deeply He cares for me.

There – I confessed it. Now what? Train my heart to trust God: trust Him more, trust Him deeply. In Matthew 6:26 we read the words of Christ “Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.” (The Message)

Today, I’m just learning to be a trusting follower of Christ and be “careless in the care of God.”  How about you?

Categories
encouragement theology

What should we pray for?

I often think of the common child’s prayer: “bless Mom, bless Dad, bless my friends, bless my teacher, …”  Now as adults, we can make a much better sounding prayer, with much more more spiritual words.  However, how often do we really think about what we are saying when we pray for others?  What do we pray for?

I am encouraged to pause when reading the Bible when it covers a specific prayer or prayer requests. How often do our prayer requests model these precedents in Scripture?

Paul starts the letter to the Philippians with a prayer of encouragement:

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)

In this prayer of encouragement, these are some of the specific requests made on behalf of the Philippian Christians:

  1. That your love may abound still more and more” – That their love (agape) would grow in abundance; more than enough
  2. “real knowledge” – That their love would be anchored in understanding and in the Truth of Scripture.
  3. “all discernment” – Also translated as “depth of insight”, that their love would show an understanding of what is good.
  4. “approve the things that are excellent” – That that they would evaluate things for what has real value
  5. “sincere” – lit. “without wax”; illustrating broken pottery that was repainted for a cheap sale.  The prayer for them is that their love and discernment would produce in them a pure faith without secret agendas or motives.
  6. “blameless” – that they would give no cause for offense; have no legitimate accusations against them
  7. “having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ” – recognizing that the only source of them being able to accomplish this was their salvation in Christ, and his ongoing work in them.
  8. “to the glory and praise of God” – the ultimate goal was for God’s glory in everything.

May we include this in our prayers for others.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

Categories
politics, economy, etc. praise theology World etc.

Rights?! What Rights?!

We live in a world obsessed with personal rights.   The recent political manuverings in Washington highlight a popular worldview that everyone has extensive rights, including health care.   Many wonder, how far do personal rights extend?   However, it’s nothing new.  It’s been with us since the curse.

Yet there was One Man who lived very differently.  We read in Philippians 2:6-8 that when Christ came to our world from the Father, he set aside his rights as God to fully incarnate into humanity.  The Apostle Paul tells us that Christ, though God Himself, gave up his rights to live like, look like and be treated like God.

Imagine a king leaving the glorious and lavish environs of his palace to live among the poorest of the poor in his kingdom.  But not just for a night (as if a publicity stunt), rather for years.  Regardless of the squallor in which he lives, where he lays his head or stale bread he feasts upon, the fact remains he is still king.  Christ, the King of Kings, did just that – He left his glorious, righteous throne and laid aside his rights to live as God.

What if you were to wake up tomorrow and be summoned to court only to learn that due to enormous debt you are now a slave of your creditors – for the rest of your life!  You no longer have personal rights – where to live, what to do for a career, ownership of personal property, access to a bank account, or anything that is yours.  You are now the one that is owned.  A bit frightening isn’t it?  The prophet Isaiah foretold the Christ would not have any form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.  Christ stepped in humanity not as a nobleman or into a well to do family, but as a lowly slave.  He gave up his rights to look like God.

To leave your rightful throne and live like a common slave is one thing .  To do so to sacrifice your life for wretched lost mankind is completely something different.  Scripture tells us that he humbled himself to the point of death on a cross.  The final hours of Christ leading up to the crucifixion was perhaps that most humiliating and excruciating experience anyone could ever face.  The betrayal, false trials, cruel beatings, mockings and jeerings would crush any man.  Yet Christ endured them all to rescue you and me.  He gave up his rights to be treated like God. 

What’s more amazing is that Christ gave up his these rights so that you and I would gain one of the greatest rights known to man.  In John 1:12, we read these priceless words, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

He gave up his rights so we could have the right to call heaven our eternal home. 

Thank God for the cross! 

Thank God for the empty tomb! 

Thank God he gave up his rights to rescue us.