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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Jealous God

"I the Lord thy God am a jealous God" Exodus 20:5 and Deuteronomy 5:9
"For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God" Exodus 34:14
"For the Lord thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God" Deuteronomy 4:24
"For the Lord thy God is a jealous God among you" Deuteronomy 6:15

It should be noted here that the Hebrew word translated into English as "jealous" in these verses is only employed in reference to God in the Hebrew Old Testament. Strong's Concordance The word is never used to refer to humans. Hence, it is very clear that whatever we are talking about here is not a human quality - it is a Divine quality (one that only God possesses).
In fact, we learn in Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon referenced as part of the Blue Letter Bible, that this term is used to indicate that the Hebrew God will not tolerate any rivals and will not ignore those who turn away from Him. This is consistent with the context in which it is always used. Notice that it appears in conjunction with the commandment against the creation of any image or likeness (anything designed to represent the Divine).
In other words, God is God; and there is no other! This language includes using anything man made to represent God - that includes the Bible.
Scripture is clear here. God is not jealous in the sense that we humans understand the word. God is conveying to us that He/She will not tolerate any rivals for the affection and devotion that we owe to Him/Her alone.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Did God create evil?

This question is not answered so simply as one might first imagine. Indeed, this is a question that has preoccupied philosophers and theologians down through the centuries. After all, if God truly created everything, doesn't that necessarily mean that He created evil as well? Aren't things like hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes and tornadoes ordained by God? Don't we call them acts of God?
First, we must admit that many of the things which we (humans) regard as evil are naturally occurring phenomena that are not properly characterized as either good or bad. While hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes and tornadoes can have devastating impacts on us as humans, they are the products of impersonal forces of nature caused by water temperatures, air temperatures and currents, gravity and other dynamic forces beneath the surface of the earth. Loss of life is often a consequence of these natural occurrences, but it would be completely unfair and inaccurate to characterize this loss as the motivational force or purpose behind these events.
Is it evil for a lion to hunt and eat a zebra? Is it evil for a bear to catch a salmon swimming upstream to spawn and eat it? Is it evil for an eagle to swoop down into a meadow and snatch up a rabbit to feed its young? Or do these seemingly ruthless and violent events help to nourish and sustain the survival of both species?
Likewise, we often characterize a sunset, flower or tree as being "good" things. Even so, a sunset is merely the product of the fact that the earth turns on its axis while orbiting the star at the center of our solar system. The flower and the tree both serve real purposes within the ecosystems to which they belong (providing shade, oxygen, food, erosion control, animal housing, etc.) Hence, we must be careful in what we evaluate as being evil and good.
Nevertheless, Isn't God responsible for disease and death? Didn't he create the viruses and bacteria that have caused so much human pain, suffering and death?
God is certainly responsible for death as a possibility for mankind. According to Scripture, God offered mankind a choice between life and death. God offered to teach mankind the way of life - the difference between right and wrong, good and bad; but mankind rejected God's offer and chose to make their own decisions about right and wrong, good and bad. This choice resulted in death for them, and a majority of mankind has continued to make the same choice that our ancestors made so long ago. (Read Chapters 1 thru 3 of Genesis)
As Creator, God is also ultimately responsible for the many kinds of bacteria and viruses that we find extant on this planet. Once again, however, we must ask ourselves the question: Are bacteria and viruses inherently evil? Haven't some bacteria and viruses proved to be useful and helpful to mankind? (e.g. Lactobacillus acidophilus lives inside of our bodies and helps us to digest food - the cowpox virus helped to save countless people from developing the deadly smallpox virus) Moreover, haven't sinful practices of mankind introduced some of these bacteria into environments and places that they were not originally designed to inhabit? Hasn't mankind also strengthened and worsened the effects of some of these microbes by tampering with them and abusing antibiotics? Haven't some the "bad" microbes also been responsible for the development of drugs and treatments that have helped many humans? Hasn't exposure to some of the "bad" microbes also served to strengthen the human immune system over time and ensure its survival? Hence, is it really fair to tag God with the responsibility for this microbial "evil?"
Doesn't designating something as "good" effectively create its counterpart (evil)? In other words, by creating the good, didn't God inadvertently create the evil too? If I lay a solid foundation and build a strong house out of the best materials that I can find, does that make me the builder of the shack that someone else has erected next door to spoil the beauty of my home? Is God really stuck with the responsibility for having made it possible for someone else to erect something that is inferior and alien to what he's created? Is that fair?
Finally, Didn't God create Satan and his demons? Isn't this the ultimate proof that God created evil? Scripture informs us that God created a Cherub named Lucifer who was perfect as originally created. Ezekiel 28:12-14 However, this creature allowed vanity and jealousy to take root in his heart and he sinned. Genesis 3:1-5, Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 28:15-18 Later, in the New Testament, we learn that "his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven," and that he initiated a war in heaven and has been responsible for deceiving the entire world. Revelation 12:4, 7 & 9 So God did create the Cherub and lesser angels who later became Satan and his demons by their own choice.
So, No Virginia, God did not create evil.

Monday, February 24, 2014

God in song

There are many ways to learn about God and worship our Lord. It is sad that some folks focus on reading Scripture and/or listening to sermons. In fact, I can't think of anything that penetrates our stony hearts better than a good song!
Consider some of these lyrics from old favorites:

"Now thank we all our God
With heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things hath done,
In whom His world rejoices;
Who, from our mothers' arms,
Hath blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love,
And still is ours today. --Rinkart and Cruger 17th Century

"A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing" --Martin Luther 16th Century

"Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear, Now to His temple draw near;
Join me in glad adoration!
Praise to the Lord, who o'er all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shieldeth thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth.
Hast thou not seen How thy desires e'er have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?" --Joachim Neander 17th Century

"The God of Abraham praise,
All praised be His name,
Who was, and is, and is to be,
And still the same!
The one eternal God,
Ere aught that now appears;
The First, the Last: beyond all thought
His timeless years!" --Thomas Olivers, 18th Century

When we say that inspiration closed with the book of Revelation, we cut ourselves off from everything that has followed! From the context and notations recorded in our Bible, we know that the Israelites sang many of the Psalms. After Christ celebrated Passover with his disciples, we read: "When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives." Matthew 26:30 (NIV) So let's make sure we are employing every means available to us to learn about our God and fulfill our need to worship and adore Him/Her.

*The above selections were taken from Hymns for Worship published by Evangel Press in 1963.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

In God's name

In the KJV of the Bible, we read: "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain." Exodus 20:7
According to Strong's Concordance, the Hebrew word translated here as "vain" can also mean empty, false and worthless. The NLT renders this same verse as: "You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name." Hence, the sense of the commandment in the original Hebrew is one of abusing God's name or not using it in a manner that is worthy of God's holiness and greatness.
Thus we might well ask: What constitutes acceptable or unacceptable usage of the Divine name? There are numerous instances in Scripture where the phraseology is employed that someone "called on the name of the Lord." Hence, we might logically conclude that calling on God or praying to Him/Her is a good thing, but is it always? Jesus Christ once said: "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." Matthew 7:21-23 So it is possible to call on the name of the Lord, or claim to be working in His name, and not really be doing so. Christ clearly said that it is possible for someone to falsely claim to be doing something in the name of the Lord. How is that possible? By not performing (or being in accord with) God's will!
Indeed, many wicked things have been done in God's name down through the centuries. People have prophesied things in God's name that did not happen. People have initiated wars of extermination in the Lord's name. People have persecuted and tortured other people in God's name (note the history of how Catholics and Protestants have treated each other down through the ages). People have burned people at the stake in the name of the Lord. They have shunned, excommunicated and disfellowshipped each other in God's name. Nevertheless, we recognize that all of these things were wrong because they were inconsistent with God's will and character - they were not worthy of His name!
However, many of the people who have engaged in these behaviors were very sincere. They did not see themselves as evil or bad people. Indeed, many of them saw themselves as doing the Lord's work. While they were pulling someone apart on the rack or watching the flames consume someone, they thought that they were saving that person's soul and doing a service for God!
Jeremiah was right when he wrote: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it." Jeremiah 17:9 John was correct when he wrote that Satan has deceived the entire world. Revelation 12:9 This is not a new problem. The Pharisees of Christ's day thought that they were God's children and doing God's work, but Christ told them that they were Satan's children. John 8:41-44
Thus, we should all be very careful in what we claim to be doing in the Lord's name. We should all ask ourselves: Is this consistent with God's character and personality? Is this consistent with God's will? If not, then maybe we should consider amending our course. After all, we don't want to be guilty of abusing the name of the Lord.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Part III of "God is not working on plan B"

Why did they rebel against God and fight against the angels who remained loyal to God? Speaking about Satan, the prophet Isaiah wrote: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars (angels) of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” (Isaiah 14:12-14) The Hebrew word translated as “like” here is “damah,” and it means to be comparable to, or to resemble, or to be like someone. Satan wanted to be like God. He resented that he was not given the potential which was offered to man. He resented the subordinate role that God had designated for him to play in his grand plan to produce children.
However, in The Incredible Human Potential, Mr. Armstrong insisted that “Lucifer had nothing less in mind than knocking the Creator God off His throne and becoming supreme God himself.” Once again, this defies the very logic that Mr. Armstrong employed to arrive at his conclusions. Think about it, if Satan really did represent the pinnacle of God’s ability to instantaneously create another being, if he really did represent “the sum, full of wisdom” as Ezekiel asserted in his writings (Ezekiel 28:12), then it is not very likely that Satan failed to understand that God could not be replaced. He wanted to be LIKE God. He wanted to be part of God’s family. He felt slighted by God. He did not want to be a servant. He wanted to rule with God. In short, he was jealous of and coveted man’s potential!
In those same scriptures, we read: “Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God…Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth, and I HAVE SET THEE SO: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou was created, till iniquity was found in thee. By the multitude of thy merchandise (possessions) they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned…” (Ezekiel 28:13-16). Several things stand out to us from this scripture: 1) we know that this being is the same individual who appeared to Adam and Eve as the Serpent (compare to Revelation 12:9), 2) God HAD APPOINTED this individual to serve as one of the two high-ranking angels who was stationed as a sentinel at God’s throne in heaven (compare to Exodus 25:18-22), and 3) that all of his tremendous gifts went to his head and caused him to sin. Likewise, these revelations shed some important light on some of the other scriptures concerning Satan, his angels, their sins and their ultimate punishment for those sins.
In the book of Genesis, we read: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.” (Genesis 2:7-8) Notice that the Garden of Eden was created for MANKIND, NOT LUCIFER. Yet, we find Lucifer, also known as the serpent, present in proximity to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 3:1-5) Moreover, we are told that “the serpent was more subtil (cunning, crafty and prudent) than any beast (creature) of the field which the Lord God had made.” (Genesis 3:1) Sounds like the description of Lucifer’s intelligence found in Ezekiel, does it not? So why was Lucifer there? You know the story – he persuaded Eve to disobey God. Why? Because he was jealous of the human couple’s potential – he wanted to be God’s son!
Afterwards, when the deed was done, God told the serpent what his punishment would be. We read: “And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat ALL THE DAYS OF THY LIFE: And I will put enmity (hostility) between thee and the woman, and between thy seed (fallen angels) and her seed (Christ); it (he) shall bruise (crush) thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:14-15) Notice that the serpent was tied to the soil of the earth thereafter, and that someday he would be permitted to inflict an injury on the Messiah’s “heel.” Nevertheless, the Messiah would deliver a blow to the serpent’s “head,” which usually signifies a fatal wound.
If, however, angels are immortal as Mr. Armstrong suggests, how could that prophecy ever be fulfilled? What is the ultimate punishment for angelic sin? Our culture understands that the penalty for man’s sin is death. (Romans 6:23) Is it fair to have two different penalties for sin? If it is incompatible with God’s loving character and merciful nature to allow humans to suffer torments throughout eternity, why is such a fate acceptable for angels? Could it be that the penalty for all sin is death?
The scriptures we have already examined in the book of Hebrews clearly demonstrate that angels are composed of spirit, but does spirit equal immortality?
First of all, if God created angels out of spirit, that means that spirit can be modified or changed. If Lucifer and one third of the angels could rebel and become purveyors of evil, that means that spirit can be modified or changed. After all, God is the One who does not change. (Malachi 3:6) Paul wrote to Timothy that immortality, self-sustaining life, is a quality that only God possesses. (I Timothy 6:16).
Spirit, however, is not subject to the same laws that govern the physical universe. Remember, the material world was specifically created for mankind. Spirit does not rust or decay. Hence, when we consider these facts and put them together with other scriptures throughout the Bible, we can safely say that angels apparently have the ability to exist indefinitely. However, make no mistake, just like other created things, they exist at his pleasure.
In Jude’s epistle, we read: “I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. And the angels which kept not their first estate (position or created state), but left their own habitation (heaven), he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, ARE SET FORTH FOR AN EXAMPLE, SUFFERING THE VENGEANCE OF ETERNAL FIRE.” (Jude 5-7) Notice the pattern: communal sin brings communal destruction and death.
What about Satan? What about the penalty for his sin? Speaking about the reason Christ came to this earth, we read in Hebrews: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might DESTROY him that had the power of death, that is, THE DEVIL…” (Hebrews 2:14) Now we are ready to finish reading the full context of what is revealed about these matters by the prophet Ezekiel: “By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: AND I WILL DESTROY THEE, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffick; THEREFORE WILL I BRING FORTH A FIRE FROM THE MIDST OF THEE, IT SHALL DEVOUR THEE, AND I WILL BRING THEE TO ASHES UPON THE EARTH IN THE SIGHT OF ALL THEM THAT BEHOLD THEE. All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, AND NEVER SHALT THOU BE ANY MORE.” (Ezekiel 28:16-19)
At the conclusion of the millennial reign of Christ, John wrote that “the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Revelation 20:10) Does that mean they will be tortured throughout eternity? I recommend that you read some of the church’s excellent literature explaining the concept of eternal punishment. “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” (Revelation 20:14) This supernatural fire is THE END of everything that is thrown into it – for all eternity! Indeed, we read in the very next chapter, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things ARE PASSED AWAY.” (Revelation 21:4) Can anyone explain to me how Satan and his angels continued existence in a state of perpetual torment is consistent with this scripture?
Brethren, TRUE IMMORTALITY IS A GOD QUALITY! Satan has been lying about what immortality means since the beginning of man’s time on this earth. It is not just any spirit that imparts eternal life – it is the Holy Spirit of God! (Romans 8:10-17) Lucifer and his angels were NEVER offered God’s Holy Spirit; but mankind was offered that Spirit, and it lives in God’s people today! In fact, this very truth underscores the incredible human potential. We are to put on that immortality, to finally become part of the very family of God! (I Corinthians 15:49-57)
Hence, the angelic rebellion DID NOT cause God to change his plans for the universe. The creation of mankind was not “Plan B.” Satan never has derailed God’s plans or altered his purposes, and he never will.
The New International Version makes this even clearer than the King James Version. Paul wrote to the saints at Rome: “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation WAS SUBJECTED TO FRUSTRATION, not by its own choice, BUT BY THE WILL OF THE ONE WHO SUBJECTED IT, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:19-21) The angels did not wreck anything. God allowed the creation to be subject to futility and frustration to further his own purpose and agenda.
“Plan A” is still on track, and it will remain on track until it is finished. There never has been a “Plan B,” and God’s purpose for mankind and the angels will stand forever!

Part II of "God is not working on plan B"

The Scriptures clearly indicate that God’s plan was designed to be failsafe. Mankind was given the ability to accept or reject a definition of right and wrong based on Divine revelation. We have free will. Nevertheless, God knew that it would be possible for man to sin. As a consequence, He/She provided the means to redeem mankind if that happened. In the book of Revelation, we read that the Lamb (Christ) was “slain from the foundation of the world.” (Revelation 13:8) God’s plan was strong. It was not subject to happenstance or failure!
The Bible reveals that God created mankind in his own image and likeness and gave them dominion over this planet we call earth. (Genesis 1:26-28). The author of the letter to the Hebrews expanded on this theme. Quoting David, the author wrote: “But one in a certain place testified, saying, ‘What is man, that thou art mindful of him? Or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honor, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet.' For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now (currently) we see not yet all things put under him.” (Hebrews 2:6-8) The author then goes on to explain that Christ had to take on the nature of humankind to triumph over death and make sure that they qualified to assume control over ALL THINGS. (Hebrews 2:9-15) The thought concludes, “For verily HE TOOK NOT ON HIM THE NATURE OF ANGELS; BUT HE TOOK ON HIM THE SEED OF ABRAHAM.” (Hebrews 2:16) Brethren, it should be abundantly clear to all of us by now that God gave this earth to humankind and offered US the potential to assume an even greater role throughout the universe!
Having set the record straight on that score, we are forced to reexamine the issue of precisely what caused the angels to sin, what that sin was and the consequences that it evoked. From the scriptural evidence available to us, we can agree with Mr. Armstrong on one point: angelic sin was intimately associated with their rejection of their God ordained purpose.
In beginning to untangle this theological mess, we need to look more closely at the scriptural evidence regarding the angelic host. If the angels were not given this earth or offered the physical universe to reign over, where was their original abode or home? In the twelfth chapter of Revelation, we read that there was a war in heaven between Michael’s angels and the Dragon’s angels. (Revelation 12:7) Moreover, we are told that the Dragon’s team was defeated and “NEITHER WAS THEIR PLACE FOUND ANY MORE IN HEAVEN.” (Revelation 12:8) John continued: “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: HE WAS CAST OUT INTO THE EARTH, AND HIS ANGELS WERE CAST OUT WITH HIM.” (Revelation 12:9) That seems pretty clear to me. The entire angelic host was originally headquartered in HEAVEN, and they lost their place there and ended up on the earth as a consequence of being defeated in an angelic war!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Part I of "God is not working on plan B"

Many years ago, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong wrote two books that have had a profound influence over the thinking of the Sabbath-keeping Church of God culture: The Incredible Human Potential and Mystery of the Ages. At the time they were published, the Worldwide Church of God hailed the books as the most important books to be written since the Holy Bible! Moreover, whether or not the points articulated in those books have been asserted as doctrinal positions among the various groups, many (if not most) of them have continued to accept all or most of the books’ teachings in their belief system.
Even so, it may surprise some of these folks that a number of those teachings relative to God’s purpose and master plan are seriously flawed or entirely without foundation! Thus, if it can be demonstrated that any teaching found in those books is not in harmony with the scriptures, then that teaching must be discarded or modified. Hence, it is the purpose of this post to underscore the fact that several of the teachings presented by Mr. Armstrong in those books are inconsistent with the scriptural evidence. More particularly, we will look at his teachings concerning God’s purposes and plans for the angelic host and mankind. After all, if a doctrinal position was true thirty years ago, we should be able to demonstrate that it is true today – right?
In The Incredible Human Potential, Mr. Armstrong wrote: “So the angel potential was to take over the entire universe – to improve and finish the billions of physical planets surrounding the uncountable stars, many of which are suns…He intended angels, and now man, to have a vital part in the final creation of the endless universe!” He went on to speculate that God may not have revealed this potential to the angels, because many of them “set out to take it from Him by force…” He continued: “What was God’s ULTIMATE OBJECTIVE for the angels? Beyond question it is that which, now, because of angelic rebellion, has become the transcendent potential of humans!”
In Mystery of the Ages, Mr. Armstrong wrote: “So the angel potential was to take over the entire universe…He intended angels to have a vital part in the final creation of the endless universe!” He continued: “The penalty of sin by the angels was not death – for God had made them immortal spirit beings which cannot die. What God gave them was THIS EARTH as their abode and opportunity to qualify to possess and beautify the entire UNIVERSE. Their penalty (they are still awaiting final judgment up to now) was disqualification – forfeiture of their grand opportunity…” In the next section entitled Why Humans Succeed Fallen Angels, Mr. Armstrong wrote: “God then purposed to reproduce himself, through humans, made in his image and likeness, but made first from material flesh and blood, subject to death if there is sin unrepented of…And that is why God put man on the earth! That is what caused God to do this most colossal, tremendous thing ever undertaken by the supreme, almighty God - to reproduce himself!”
These statements, however, contradict what is CLEARLY revealed in scripture concerning these matters! In the Holy Bible, we read: “For unto which of the angels said he AT ANY TIME, thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? And again, when he bringeth in the first begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. And of the angels he saith, who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God is for ever and ever: A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of thy kingdom.” (Hebrews 1:5-8) Notice that God NEVER addressed ANY angel as his begotten Son. Continuing in verse thirteen, we read: “But to which of the angels said he AT ANY TIME, sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? ARE THEY NOT ALL MINISTERING (SERVING) SPIRITS, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” (Hebrews 1:13-14)
Hence, we can clearly see from these scriptures that angels were created to serve God and his begotten children. They NEVER had the potential that was given to mankind – NEVER. “For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.” (Hebrews 2:5)
Laying aside the scriptural evidence for just a moment, we also have to question Mr. Armstrong’s logic. Does it make any sense to deprive the entire angelic host of their potential if only one third of them sinned? How is that fair? What about the two thirds of the angelic host who remained faithful and loyal to God? God’s modus operandi is to hold each individual responsible for his own behavior. (Ezekiel 18:1-20) God is the epitome of fairness and justice, and he would NEVER contemplate or condone anything that would compromise his reputation in that regard!
Likewise, it should also be apparent that God’s plan to reproduce himself was not the product or result of angelic rebellion. God planned to reproduce himself before the earth was created. Christ told his disciples, “Then shall the king say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you FROM THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD.” (Matthew 25:34) Paul wrote the church at Ephesus: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will…” (Ephesians 1:3-5) Peter wrote that Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf had been “foreordained BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD.” (I Peter 1:18-20)
Hence, the scriptures clearly support the notion that God’s plans were centered on mankind from the very beginning. Angels were NEVER offered what was eventually offered to mankind. They were created to assist God and his children in the fulfillment of his great purpose. In other words, angels were given a secondary or subordinate role within God’s overall plan to reproduce himself, and that was the plan from the beginning. Man’s creation was not a reaction to the failure of Plan A. On the contrary, it was an integral component of that plan.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Does God hate fags?

Although the following statement by Westboro Baptist Church is highly offensive, it is reprinted here in the hopes that others will reject their hate and error:
"'GOD HATES FAGS' -- though elliptical -- is a profound theological statement, which the world needs to hear more than it needs oxygen, water and bread. The three words, fully expounded, show: 1. the absolute sovereignty of "GOD" in all matters whatsoever (e.g., Jeremiah 32:17, Isaiah 45:7, Amos 3:6, Proverbs 16:4, Matthew 19:26, Romans 9:11-24, Romans 11:33-36, etc.), 2. the doctrine of reprobation or God's "HATE" involving eternal retribution or the everlasting punishment of most of mankind in Hell forever (e.g., Leviticus 20:13,23, Psalm 5:5, Psalm 11:5, Malachi 1:1-3, Romans 9:11-13, Matthew 7:13,23, John 12:39-40, 1 Peter 2:8, Jude 4, Revelation 13:8, 20:15, 21:27, etc.), and 3. the certainty that all impenitent sodomites (under the elegant metaphor of "FAGS" as the contraction of faggots, fueling the fires of God's wrath) will inevitably go to Hell (e.g., Romans 1:18-32, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, 1 Timothy 1:8-11, Jude 7, etc.).
The only lawful sexual connection is the marriage bed. All other sex activity is whoremongery and adultery, which will damn the soul forever in Hell. Heb. 13:4. Decadent, depraved, degenerate and debauched America, having bought the lie that It's OK to be gay, has thereby changed the truth of God into a lie, and now worships and serves the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen! Rom. 1:25. But the Word of God abides. Better to be a eunuch if the will of God be so, and make sure of Heaven. Mat. 19:12. Better to be blind or lame, than to be cast into Hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched. Mk. 9:43-48. Abstain, you fools."
I hope that everyone reading this blog can see how wrong this statement is. In fact, one book of the Bible is sufficient to contradict it.
"This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother's were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers." I John 3:11-16
"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love each other, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." I John 4:7-12
"God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. Love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him...We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, 'I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother." I John 4:16-21

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Is God an angry individual?

The "Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God" model is familiar to most Christians (even if they've never read the tract). Indeed, many Christians view God as being and angry and wrathful entity bent on vengeance. I believe that this view of God arises from a superficial understanding of Scripture.
The Hebrew word "charon" is used to describe God's anger in the Old Testament. It implies heat or a burning intensity. (Strong's Concordance) However, it is interesting to note that of the forty-one times that the word is used, most of those instances are people using the word to describe their perception of God. In fact, there are only five instances where God is purported to be speaking of himself, and all of them are referencing the execution of Divine Judgment. Isaiah 13:13, Jeremiah 49:37, Ezekiel 7:12-14, Hosea 11:9 and Zephaniah 3:8. Moreover, in the verse from the prophet Hosea, God declares that He will NOT execute the fierceness of His anger.
The phrase "mine anger" occurs thirty-three times in the King James Version of the Bible. Once again, all of those usages reference the execution of Divine Judgment (a decision to punish people/nations for continuous law breaking). Six of those thirty-three references are statements to the effect that God will not pour out the full force of His anger/wrath. Isaiah 10:25, 48:9, Jeremiah 3:12, 32:37, Hosea 11:9 and 14:4 Hence, on closer inspection, it appears that God's anger is always tied to the administration of Divine Justice, which has been planned into God's schematic for dealing with mankind. Unlke human anger, God doesn't suddenly lose His temper and zap someone - That's simply not how God operates (at least not from the perspective of Scripture).
I count ten references in the KJV to God as being longsuffering or patient. I counted over twenty references to God as being merciful and six uses of the phrase "slow to anger" regarding the Divine character. To be sure, as part of God's plan for us, there is a Day of Wrath appointed at the conclusion of man's and Satan's reigns on this earth. Nevertheless, the characterization of our God as an angry, wrathful and bitter individual is simply not an accurate representation of Him/Her!

God blesses ALL of His/Her people

I just wanted to say that I share the opinion expressed in the comments section of this blog that God blesses all of His/Her people. Like the United States of America, the other nations of Christendom have certainly been blessed and protected over the years. Moreover, if you were to ask Christians in places like China and Egypt, I'm confident that most of them would say that God has blessed and protected them and their families. Finally, I also believe that Scriptures makes it very clear that God's ultimate design is to make everyone on this planet His/Her people.

Monday, February 17, 2014

God as Lawgiver

"The Lord is our lawgiver" Isaiah 33:22
It is generally accepted among those who profess to adhere to the Judeo-Christian Scriptures that God is the original and great Lawgiver. As with most other things, that is where the agreement ends. There are two principal areas of contention among the different groups: 1) How to define the Law of God and 2) The determination of which parts of it are currently binding on God's people.
For most Jews, there is a sense that "The Law" encompasses the first five books of the Old Testament (what many of them refer to as The Torah). Even among most Christians, I suppose that there is some consensus that all of this material constitutes the "Law of God" or "Law of Moses." However, there are many people who regard the Ten Commandments delivered from Mount Sinai as "God's Law." Likewise, some people would include every commandment, statute, ordinance or judgment recorded anywhere in the Old or New Testaments as "God's Law."
If we are fair, we should all be willing to acknowledge that there is some basis in Scripture for adopting all of these views of "The Law." It should also be apparent to any serious student of the Bible that "The Law" can mean different things in different contexts. Likewise, it would be foolhardy to characterize every law given in Scripture as having equal value or importance - some principles are clearly more important than others.
For Christians, the foremost authority on "The Law" would be Jesus Christ. We read in the Gospel According to Matthew: "Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." Matthew 22:35-40
In this passage, we see that Christ characterized two fundamental principles as being the most important ones in the entire law. Indeed, he said that those two principles constituted the basis (the underpinning, if you will) for everything else!
Where did these two principles come from? In answering that question, we would be technically correct to say that Christ was quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. Nevertheless, it is also clear that Christ was summarizing the Ten Commandments in this Scripture. The first four commandments defining how to love God, and the last six defining how to love your neighbor.
In his letter to the saints at Rome, the Apostle Paul went on to condense these principles into one concept. He wrote: "Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." Romans 13:10 Christ and Paul didn't see "The Law" as a series of do's and don'ts. They saw that God had a purpose behind those statutes and commandments. Hence, to them, the principle behind the do's and don'ts was what was important and enduring.
Christ once said: "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." Matthew 5:17-18 Christ didn't come to the earth to destroy God's Law - He came here to fulfill all of it by obeying every commandment, statute, judgment and ordinance given as part of the "Law of Moses" or "Law of God." To remove the death penalty from us, Christ had to keep it all perfectly. Hence, Christ fulfilled (filled to the full) the requirements of "The Law" on our behalf.
Paul told the Romans that "the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." Romans 8:7 By ourselves, we were incapable of fulfilling the requirements of "The Law." Christ did this for us and thus removed the very things that had separated us from God - our sins (Sin is the transgression of the law - I John 3:4). Thus, we cannot earn our salvation by keeping "The Law" - Christ did that for us. The requirements of the Law have been fulfilled for us - we are under grace. Romans 6:14
Paul continued: "What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid!" Romans 6:15 Christ's fulfillment of the requirements of "The Law" for us was not intended to give us a license to go on sinning. The principles that were and are the basis for God's Law still apply to us today. Christ has made us clean and new - We must not go back to the dirt and the old.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Is God protecting or punishing the United States?

It doesn't take much imagination to look at the history of the United States of America and conclude that we have been blessed and protected by Almighty God. Indeed, the U.S. has accumulated territory, wealth and power on a scale unprecedented in the annals of world history.
Why? Was this an accident of history? Why would God favor this nation over others? We are told in Scripture that God made certain promises to Abraham many years ago. We read in the book of Genesis that God promised to make Abraham the father of many nations, the ancestor of kings (leaders) and to give his descendants wealth and victory over their enemies. Genesis 12:1-3, 15:1-5, 17:1-8, 22:15-18, 27:27-29, 28:10-15 "Ok, but what does that have to do with the United States of America?" we ask. Could it be that the Judeo-Christian underpinnings of the Western World (including the United States) has resulted in those peoples receiving the blessings promised to Abraham so many years ago?
Christ did say that God was able to raise up children to Abraham from the stones. Matthew 3:9, Luke 3:8 Paul told the Romans, "For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God." Romans 2:28-29 He wrote to the saints at Galatia: "And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God's promise to Abraham belongs to you!" Galatians 3:29
"Ok, if we accept that God has blessed and protected the U.S., isn't it also obvious that God can withdraw that protection and blessing?" we may ask. First, the promise was made to Abraham - its fulfillment is not dependent on the righteousness or wickedness of his descendants. Yet, many religious leaders have pointed to the moral depravity extant in modern American society and proposed just such an interpretation of current affairs.
After the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S., in an appearance on The 700 Club, Jerry Falwell said: "What we saw on Tuesday, as terrible as it is, could be miniscule. If in fact, God continues to lift the curtain and give us probably what we deserve." - A statement with which Pat Robertson quickly agreed. Mr. Falwell went on to cite the ACLU, People for the American Way, abortionists, feminists and gays as being somehow responsible for what had happened. He said, "I point the finger in their face and say you helped this happen!" To which, once again, Pat Robertson "totally" concurred. Likewise, after listing many of the difficulties then facing the U.S., CGI Minister Bill Watson wrote in Volume 31, number 1 of The International News: "Is this visible evidence that God is finally beginning to remove His 'protective hedge?'"
How would that be fair to the faithful? If God was willing to spare Sodom for the sake of ten righteous individuals (Genesis 18:20-32), why would He not be willing to do the same for the United States?
Jesus sought to dispel this kind of thinking among his followers during his earthly ministry. Notice in the Gospel According to Luke, we read: "About this time Jesus was informed that Pilate had murdered some people from Galilee as they were offering sacrifices at the Temple. 'Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other people from Galilee?' Jesus asked. 'Is that why they suffered? Not at all! And you will perish, too, unless you repent of your sins and turn to God. And what about the eighteen people who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them? Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem? No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will perish too.'" Luke 13:1-5 Clearly, those events were not tied to the wickedness of the victims.
In fact, if we take an objective look at the circumstances surrounding the events of 9/11/2001, I don't see how we could conclude anything other than that God was there protecting the United States that day! On an average day, about fifty-thousand people worked in the Twin Towers of the WTC - 2,753 people died in them that day. The South Tower stood for fifty-six minutes after it was struck - The North Tower stood for one hundred and two minutes after the plane crashed into it! On an average day, twenty-three thousand souls worked in the Pentagon. What a coincidence that they were remodeling that part of the building that September day and it was mostly empty as a consequence! One hundred and eighty-four people died at the Pentagon that day. The plane that crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania that day was almost certainly headed for the U.S. Capital Building or the White Hose - 40 people died in that Pennsylvania field. I see overwhelming evidence in these statistics that God was protecting the U.S. that day!
People have free will - A wicked person or group of people can decide on their own to perpetrate evil, but the evidence is clear that God mitigated the evil that they had intended to occur that day. Yes, the Great Recession has been terrible, but how does that compare to the Great Depression? Yes, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been awful (over 7,000 Americans killed in battle), but how does that compare to the over 58,000 killed in Vietnam or the 625,000+ killed during the Civil War? Has God blessed and protected the United States of America? YES And may He/She continue to do so!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Does God favor capitalism over socialism?

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord." Isaiah 55:8
Webster's defines capitalism as "the economic system in which all or most of the means of production and distribution...are privately owned and operated for profit, originally under fully competitive conditions: it has been generally characterized by a tendency toward concentration of wealth, and in its later phase, by the growth of great corporations, increased governmental control, etc." Adam Smith also talked about the "invisible hand" of the marketplace - the premise that when individuals pursue self-interest that this will eventually accrue to the benefit of society as a whole.
Christ said: "Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." Matthew 6:31-34 He went on to say: "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." Matthew 7:12 Hence, we can see from these Scriptures that the philosophical basis for capitalism stands in stark contrast to the teachings of Jesus Christ.
We also read in Scripture that God does not approve of societies that are built on the backs of the poor and exalt greed and profit as the principal motivators of economic activity. Amos 4:1, 8:4-8 Likewise, God insists that workers are to be paid a fair wage by their employers. Leviticus 19:13, Jeremiah 22:13, Malachi 3:5 The Old Testament also appears to be hostile to the principle of charging interest. Exodus 22:5, Leviticus 25:35-36, Deuteronomy 23:19, Proverbs 28:8, Ezekiel 22:12 What does that imply for modern capitalist banking practices?
Webster's defines socialism as "the theory or system of the ownership and operation of the means of production and distribution by society or the community rather than by private individuals, with all members of society or the community sharing in the work and the products." This system has often been associated with the principle "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need."
We are told in Scripture that Cain once asked God, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Genesis 4:9 From a Scriptural perspective, the answer to that question appears to be yes. Deuteronomy 15:7-11, I John 4:7-21 God instructed the farmers of ancient Israel to leave part of their harvest in the field for the benefit of the poor. Leviticus 19:9-10, 23:22 God also instructed the people to use their tithes every three years for the benefit of the disadvantaged in their society. Deuteronomy 26:12 Christ told the rich man to go and sell everything that he had and follow him. Matthew 19:21 Likewise, we read that early Christians "had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need." Acts 2:44-45 Nevertheless, it is also clear that laziness was not tolerated by the leadership of the church. II Thessalonians 3:10
Therefore, as we look at these two systems developed by men, we must conclude that declaring either one of them to be God's system would not be consistent with what the Scriptures reveal about God's priorities and principles. Capitalism is not the good and Godly system that some have portrayed it to be, and Socialism is not the evil and Godless system that some have portrayed it to be. From God's perspective, both systems have good and bad features.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Soli Deo Gloria - Glory to God Alone!

The doctrine of Sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone) has been proclaimed by most of Protestant Christianity. Although stated in a variety of confessions and statements, the belief is generally regarded as attributing to the canon of the Old and New Testament: 1) God’s complete revelation to mankind, 2) the foundation of all doctrinal truth, being without error or contradiction, and 3) the supreme and final authority for Christians in matters related to their faith and life. However, there is one major problem with the teaching: It isn’t Scriptural! In fact, the very Scriptures that it seeks to characterize in such a way refute the premise of the doctrine.

First, to characterize Scripture as God’s complete revelation to mankind clearly contradicts prophetic Scriptures that point to greater understanding of God’s Will in the future. Isaiah wrote that the earth would one day be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, “as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:9) Christ promised his disciples that the Holy Spirit would reveal things to them in the future that they weren’t ready to hear from his own lips. (John 16:12-14) Paul wrote to the saints at Corinth that he and his fellow Christians experienced an incomplete, darkened and imperfect view of God’s Will in the present, but that someday they would understand it clearly. (I Corinthians 13:9-12)

In addition to these, there are numerous Scriptures that point to nature as a source for discerning God’s Will and learning about His character. David wrote: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.” (Psalm 19:1-3) Likewise, we read that “the heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory.” (Psalm 97:6) Solomon instructed God’s people to study the ant to learn about the proper way to live. (Proverbs 6:6) Christ told his followers to consider the lilies and learn from them about what God expected of them. (Matthew 6:28-30 and Luke 12:27-28) Paul wrote to the saints at Rome that creation reveals God’s invisible qualities, eternal power and authority. (Romans 1:20) Hence, it is ludicrous for us to propose that only the Scriptures are capable of revealing God to us.

It is also misleading to characterize Scripture as the foundation of all doctrinal truth and being free of any error or contradiction. When Paul wrote to Timothy that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness…” (II Timothy 3:16), the only Scriptures that he could have been referencing were those contained in the Old Testament – most of the New Testament hadn’t been written yet!

Christ told the Jewish leaders of his day that even though they had access to those Scriptures, that God’s word was not a part of them! He went on to explain to them that they wrongly believed that the Scriptures were the source of eternal life. He reminded them that those same Scriptures pointed to him as the real source of eternal life. (John 5:37-40) Indeed, Christ told his disciples that he was the way to the Father, truth and eternal life. (John 14:6)

Like most of the Christian leaders of today, many of the Jewish leaders of Christ’s day thought that their Scriptures (the Old Testament) contained the complete revelation of God’s Will and Glory, but Christ and his followers made very plain to them that this simply was not true. Jesus told them that they had absolutely no knowledge of the Father before his arrival on this earth! He went on to warn them about their rejection of him and his message and to tell them that the very man whose writings that they depended so heavily upon (Moses) pointed out their error. (John 5:43-47) John said, “The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17) In the book of Hebrews, we read that this applied to the entire Old Testament: “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds…” (Hebrews 1:1-2)

In short, they regarded the Old Testament as God’s Word – They simply could not see that they had the genuine article right in front of their faces! “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH.” (John 1:1 and 14, emphasis mine) John went on to say that no man had ever seen Almighty God, and that Jesus Christ was revealing Him to the world for the first time! (John 1:18)

Their Scriptures (Old Testament) pointed to God in an obscure way, but Christ was “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person.” (Hebrews 1:3) Paul wrote that in Christ “dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” (Colossians 2:9) Christ told Thomas: “If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.” (John 14:7) Then we are told that Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father. (John 14:8) Christ replied: “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?” (John 14:9)

The Jewish leaders and Christ’s own disciples seemed incapable of understanding that they had the ultimate revelation of God standing right in front of them! Christ, as the actual Word of God, was superior to anything that they had (or we have) in writing!

Now we come to Scripture as our final and supreme authority in matters of faith and life. Brethren, if we really believe in the Bible, then we must conclude that such a statement is blasphemy! The Bible makes very clear that Almighty God is the Final and Supreme Authority in matters of faith and life, and Him ALONE!

Paul wrote to the saints at Rome that ALL authority derives from God. (Romans 13:1) He went on to tell the Corinthians that God has given all authority to Christ, but that the Father still maintained ultimate authority. (I Corinthians 15:27-28) Paul wrote to the saints at Ephesus that Christ was far above any other authority on this earth. (Ephesians 1:21-22)

Christ reminded his disciples that the Father has the ultimate authority in determining the fulfillment of prophecies and the schedule for the completion of His plans. (Matthew 24:36) Just before he ascended into heaven, Jesus told them: “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.” (Acts 1:7) When they were commanded not to preach the truth about Christ, Peter and the other apostles declared that God’s authority was superior to any human authority. (Acts 5:29) Scripture is clear: The Ultimate, Final and Supreme Authority in matters of faith and life is Almighty God – not a book about Him.

“Didn’t Christ himself appeal to Scripture as the final authority in these matters when he confronted Satan?” some have asked. (Matthew 24:1-11) Most of the people who reference the temptation of Christ in defending the doctrine of Sola Scriptura fail to mention that Satan also quoted Scripture in this confrontation. (Matthew 4:6) They also conveniently fail to mention that all of the Scriptures quoted by both parties allude to Almighty God as having ultimate authority and power. In fact, Christ’s final refutation of Satan is that “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, AND HIM ONLY SHALT THOU SERVE.” (Matthew 4:10, emphasis mine) Brethren, we owe our respect, deference, obedience and worship to God ALONE – not to a book about Him and His Will!

Scripture is clear on this matter: “Let God be true, but every man a liar.” (Romans 3:4) We don’t want to be among those who worship and serve the created thing (Scripture) “more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. A-men.” (Romans 1:25) For Christians, the true teaching should be Soli Deo Gloria, Glory to God ALONE!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

God's role in creation: Part III - Science

Now that we've looked at myth and revelation, we are ready to take a look at the scientific aspect of creation.
It is unfortunate that many Christians see a conflict between science and their faith. Indeed, many Christians are hostile to science and reject much of what that discipline has to teach us about our world. However, if we take a closer look, I believe any objective person will see that such a conflict is unnecessay. I see no reason that a person of faith should reject any mainstream science or resist any type of ethical research to learn more.
After all, what part of the scientific method violates Scripture in any way? The Scientific Method: 1) Observe and describe it [Why did God give us five senses?], 2) Formulate a hypothesis to explain it [Isn't meditation encouraged in Scripture?], 3) Make predictions based on the hypothesis [Aren't we encouraged throughout Scripture to look to the future?], 4) Testing those predictions [Isn't it natural to do this?]
How does the Big Bang Theory take anything away from God as Creator? Why couldn't God have used a Big Bang to bring the physical universe into existence? For that matter, why couldn't God have used "Inflation" to get things started? I don't see anything in Scripture that prohibits God from using such devices in the process of creation.
What about Evolution? Why is that such a dirty word to many Christians? The Theory of Evolution with its reliance on the fossil record, time and genetics seems very plausible as an explanation for the diversity of life on this planet. Who's to say that God didn't use Natural Selection to contribute to that diversity? What does Evolution take away from God being the source of life?
Life had to come from somewhere - even an atheistic scientist would acknowledge this (although he/she might say that it arose from simple organic compounds). It's interesting to note here that the Bible also teaches Abiogenesis (And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground - Genesis 2:7)
Q: Where did the simple organic compounds come from? A: From the elements created in the Big Bang forming into molecules Q: What caused the Big Bang? A: Inflation Q: Where did the small particle of super concentrated stuff come from that gave rise to Inflation? Q: Where did God come from? A: I guess scientists and relgionists are equal here - neither one of them has an answer for these last two questions!
Hence, how can any scientist claim a logical advantage over a theist in this debate about origins? In fact, I would say that logic favors the theist. The fact that we are self-aware and have the ability to reason, imagine and create points to a Creator.
The brilliant physicist Max Tegmark has argued for a Mathematical universe. I say an equation demands a mathematician. A building demands an artichect. A sculpture demands a sculptor. A machine demands a mechanical engineer. A poem demans a poet. A painting demands a painter.
What does the greatest scientist of all time have to fear from scientific research? I say NOTHING - BRING IT ON! Why would God's children be afraid to ask questions and explore? Why wouldn't we be willing to learn whatever science can teach us about the world we live in?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

God's role in creation: Part II - Revelation

So if the Genesis account should not be taken literally or used as a scientific explanation of how the earth was created, what should we glean from those Scriptures? To me, it is obvious that the author of the first three chapters of Genesis wished to convey the following: 1) God created everything and everything has a purpose 2) Mankind has a special relationship with God, and God has a plan for mankind 3) The seven day week is a memorial to the act of creation 4) Mankind was given an opportunity to accept or reject God's definition of right/wrong 5) The acceptance of God's standard would lead to eternal life, and its rejection would lead to death 6) Satan played a role in man's decision to reject God's standard and has a part to play in man's story thereafter 7) To introduce the one who would finally crush Satan (Jesus Christ - the woman's seed)
Moreover, if we use the Genesis Scriptures in conjunction with other Scriptures about creation, a more accurate portrayal of the process of creation is revealed: 1) God planned everything out before acting. Job 38:4-5, Psalm 104:5, Proverbs 8:29, Isaiah 40:21, Revelation 13:8, I Peter 1:19-20, etc. 2) God created angels before the physical universe. Job 38:7, Isaiah 14, Ezekiel 28, Hebrews 1 & 2, Revelation 12:9, etc. 3) God created the physical universe, including the earth 4) God prepared the surface of the earth to receive life 5) God created life, and provided for its diversity 6) God created mankind 7) God created the Sabbath by resting at the conclusion of these creative activities

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

God's role in creation: Part I - Myths

Earlier this month, many of us witnessed the debate between Bill Nye (representing Evolution) and Ken Ham (representing Creation). Indeed, the question is almost always portrayed as such (either one or the other). The Fundamentalist view of the Genesis accounts of creation is almost always presented as the basis or starting point for the discussion (as if this was the only valid interpretation of the Christian side of the argument).
However, there are many Christians who support the notion of God as Creator, but don't support the Ham interpretation of Scripture. In fact, many of us in that camp found ourselves in better agreement with Mr. Nye than with Mr. Ham!
If we are determined to look at the Genesis creation stories as literal accounts of the process of creation, then we are setting ourselves up for real problems with logic and science. Consider these facts about a literal interpretation of the Genesis account of Creation:
1) Light and the designation of the time period known as one day (being relatively equal parts of light and darkness) is created (Genesis 1:3-5) before the sun (Genesis 1:14-19). Hence, there appears to be no understanding on the part of the author of this passage that the earth's rotation on its axis while orbiting the sun is the source of night and day.
2) We are told that God made the firmament (sky) to "divide the waters from the waters." (Genesis 1:6-7) Hence, there appears to be no understanding of the hydrologic cycle that governs the continuous turn over of water on this planet (water evaporates into the atmosphere from lakes, seas, oceans and rivers and condenses there and falls in the form of rain and snow back to the earth where it returns to the rivers, lakes, seas and oceans).
3) We are told that God created plant life on the surface of the earth (Genesis 1:11-13) prior to the creation of the sun (Genesis 1:14-17). Hence, there appears to be no understanding that the sun is necessary for plant photosynthesis to occur.
4) We are told that "God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night" (Genesis 1:16), and that "God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth" (Genesis 1:17). Once again, there appears to be absolutely no understanding that the earth is orbiting the sun and the moon is orbiting the earth. Moreover, the author of these passages appears to not make any distinction between the atmosphere surrounding the earth and space.
5) We are told that all marine and avian life is created on the fifth day (Genesis 1:20-23), and that all other animal life (including humans) was created on the sixth day (Genesis 1:24-26). This is obviously not consistent with the fossil record (our knowledge of the past) or our knowledge of how animal and plant populations within ecosystems currently work on this planet (what we can clearly observe in the present).
6) The second chapter of Genesis presents us with even more challenges to logic and science than the first. We are told that a mist spewed out of the ground and watered the earth - no rain (Genesis 2:6). If we are indeed intended to understand everything literally, then we are also confronted with the presence of two mysterious trees - one referred to as the tree of life and the other as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:9). Unlike the account in the first chapter that informs us that the male and female of the human kind were created simultaneously (Genesis 1:26-28), we are told that God created the man first and that the woman was created as an afterthought later (Genesis 2:7, 18-23).
7) Finally, faced once again with an insistence by Ham and his supporters on a literal understanding of these scriptures, we are presented with a snake that speaks to the woman and convinces her to disobey God's clear instructions to the couple (which eventually results in their expulsion from the garden). (Genesis 3)
Are we quite sure that we Christians want to leave this matter in the hands of Ken Ham and his associates? Of course, we could just tie a dark cloth over our eyes and poke our fingers in our ears and pretend these things don't exist!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Did God order the Israelites to commit genocide?

Genocide = The systematic killing or extermination of a whole people or nation (Webster's) Numbers 21:1-3 (Hormah means utter destruction), Numbers 21:33-35, Numbers 31:1-18, Joshua 6:17, 21, Joshua 8:21-29, Joshua 11:10-15
"Then Sihon came out against us, he and all his people, to fight at Jahaz. And the Lord our God delivered him before us; and we smote him, and his sons, and all his people. And we took all his cities at that time, and utterly destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones, of every city, we left none to remain: Only the cattle we took for a prey unto ourselves, and the spoil of the cities which we took." --Deuteronomy 2:32-35
"So the Lord our God delivered into our hands Og also, the king of Bashan, and all his people: and we smote him until none was left to him remaining. And we took all his cities at that time, there was not a city which we took not from them, threescore cities, all the region of Argob, the kingdom of Og in Bashan. All these cities were fenced with high walls, gates, and bars; beside unwalled towns a great many. And we utterly destroyed them, as we did unto Sihon king of Heshbon, utterly destroying the men, women, and children, of every city. But all the cattle, and the spoil of the cities, we took for a prey to ourselves." --Deuteronomy 3:3-7
The language in these Scriptures is clear and graphic - the Israelites exterminated whole nations (men, women, elderly and children) and attributed it all to God's instructions.
Is such behavior consistent with a God of love? (I John 4:8, 16) Paul defined love as being "paitient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about insjustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumcstance." (I Corinthians 13:4-7)
There are numerous other Scriptures that describe God as merciful and compassionate. Exodus 34:6, Psalm 86:15, 103:8, 111:4, 116:5, 117:2, 145:8, Joel 2:13, Jonah 4:2. Luke 6:36, I John 3:17, etc. Do you believe that God has ever told anyone to commit genocide? Or have people used God to cover their own wickedness?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

What does it mean to worship God?

Religion has been defined as 1) "belief in a divine or super-human power or powers to be obeyed and worshiped as the creator(s) and ruler(s) of the universe," and 2) "expression of this belief in conduct and ritual." (Webster's)
Nevertheless, when James addressed the subject in his epistle, he wrote: "If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain . Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." James 1:26-27
Likewise, we see in Scripture that Jesus Christ did not care for many of the human expressions of worship that he had observed during his earthly ministry. Among the people of his day, religion was mostly a public ritual for the benefit of the people participating in the display. Christ said: "And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward." Matthew 6:5 We also read in the Gospel of Luke: "And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." Luke 18:9-14
Clearly, God's notions of religion are different from human notions of religion. People have created structures and organized each other into many different groups that claim to have the worship of God as their objective. When Christ's disciples were struggling to gain the mastery over each other, he told them: "Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister : And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." Mark 10:42-45
In a statement at the end of his ministry on this earth, Christ said something to Peter that strongly implies that he knew many people would come to regard Peter as the chief of the apostles. He asked Peter three different times if Peter loved him better than the other apostles. "Of course!" Peter replied, "you know I do." Each time, Christ told Peter to feed his lambs or sheep. The message to Peter was clear: If you really love me and want to serve me, then take care of my flock - feed and nourish them. John 21:15-18 How many of the leaders and flocks within the Christian community are worshiping God in that spirit today?

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Does God ever change his mind?

God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through? --Numbers 23:19
And he who is the Glory of Israel will not lie, nor will he change his mind, for he is not human that he should change his mind! --I Samuel 15:29
I am the Lord, and I do not change. --Malachi 3:6
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. --Hebrews 13:8Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from above, from the Father of lights. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. --James 1:17
Well, there's your answer, right? Case closed! Not so fast! The words of Balaam recorded in Numbers are true in the sense that God's character/personality is immutable (it doesn't change). However, the answer to both of the questions he poses is YES! God has spoken and failed to act! He has promised to do things which he hasn't performed!
When the wicked people of Nineveh repented of their sins and changed their ways, God changed his mind about destroying them. Jonah 4:10 When King Hezekiah pleaded with God to heal him after Isaiah had delivered God's message to the king that he would die, God changed his mind and gave Hezekiah another fifteen years. Hezekiah 20:1-6
The interesting thing is that God never changes his mind about good things that he has decreed/promised, only about negative decrees/sentences (and it's a good thing for us that it works that way!) God has declared that the penalty for sin is death (Genesis 2:17, Leviticus 24:16, Deuteronomy 28:45 and Romans 6:23). Nevertheless, if we are willing to reptent and accept Christ as our Savior, then God is willing to change his mind about that death sentence, forgive us and allow us to live!So let's all thank God that he can change his mind!
"But God didn't really change his mind about that penalty - Christ still had to pay that penalty didn't he?" the skeptics will persist. That's very true, but you forget Mr. Skeptic that our Father still had to accept the substitution. If the Almighty wasn't willing to accept the substitution, you and I would still be on our way to the Lake of Fire! Thank God, when circumstances change, the Almighty is willing to change his decree about the outcome.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Things that will not be addressed here

The author of this blog wishes to make clear that a few of the issues traditionally associated with God's nature will not be addressed here. In particular, this blog will not address whether God consists of one, two, three or one million individuals. The doctrine of the Trinity has had sufficient supporters and detractors over the last two thousand years, and this writer has no desire to add to that already extensive body of work. Likewise, I find that I have no desire to wade into the debate over Christ's Divinity. Enough has been written and said about this topic as well, and the pros and cons rarely succeed in changing each others opinions on the subject. Finally, enough has already been written about whether or not God is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient.
This author is not interested in participating in the tired old arguments that have consumed most of the last two thousand years of Christian history. While I do not mean to dismiss these issues as irrelevant or unimportant, I do believe that the focus on them has resulted in the neglect of the pursuit of a clearer understanding of Almighty God's overall character and personality. Hence, the commentary on this blog will seek to explore aspects of God that have not received as much thought or attention from Christian writers in years past.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Does God have a penis?

If asked, most Fundamentalist Christians would tell you that God is a male. Indeed, most of them would probably answer the question without any pause or consideration of their answer. After all, the Bible is full of male pronouns referring to God (from Genesis to Revelation). So the answer to the question is obvious - Right?
We read:  "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them." Genesis 1:27 Doesn't that imply that both the man and the woman were created in God's image? The Hebrew word translated into English as image implies a shadow of the original and is used throughout the Old Testament to refer to idols.
Moreover, if men are from Mars and women are from Venus (in other words, if there really are differences in the way that the two sexes think), doesn't that suggest that God divided to them different aspects of the Divine character/personality? Could that be part of the reason why the union of the two makes them one in God's sight? Put another way, does the union of a man and a woman reunite those traits of the Almighty on a human plane?
According to the Gospels, Jesus Christ said that people will not marry in the resurrection - the clear implication being that there won't be any males or females when we are reborn. Matthew 22:30, Mark 12:25 and Luke 20:35 Paul told the saints of Galatia:  "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
What about Jesus Christ referring to Almighty God as his Father? Didn't God impregnate Christ's mother Mary? If you are a Christian, the answer to both questions is YES. So what does that prove? It proves that Almighty God certainly has the capacity to act in the role of a father. However, it does not exclude God from having the capacity to act in the role of a mother. "But He did impregnate Mary," my Fundamentalist friends will insist. Are you saying then that there is a female deity? Is Mary truly the Queen of Heaven? We must be careful in what we extrapolate from the information given to us in Scripture!
Aren't we trying to contain God when we limit God to the male gender? Doesn't Almighty God encompass the traits of both genders?  

Saturday, February 1, 2014

God among the lilies

Consider the lilies how they grow:  they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. -- Jesus Christ (Luke 12:27)

The study of lilies can reveal a great deal about Almighty God. The variety of shapes and colors is astounding. The genus Lilium is one of the great ones of the kingdom of plants. Their range covers much of the surface of the earth. Hence, the diversity and legendary beauty of these plants points to a brilliant and artistic creator.
Most of us have studied the parts of the lily in a high school biology class, but how many of us have taken the time to really appreciate the beauty, simplicity and complexity of those structures. Consider the stamens with their anthers full of pollen perched at the top of long, slender filaments. Consider the carpels with their ovaries, styles and stigmas; and the roles that all of these structures play in the reproduction of the species. Look at the colorful sepals and petals and think about the roles that they play in attracting insects to the reproductive parts at their center to spread the pollen and fertilize the female parts of the flower.  In the soil under the lily, the bulbs that will ensure the appearance of the plant again next year are safely tucked away.
Moreover, in addition to the structures that are visible to the naked eye, we must remember that there are smaller structures within each lily that are only visible with a microscope. Each lily is made up of numerous cells. Likewise, each cell has numerous smaller structures called organelles:  the nucleus, mitochondria, ribosomes, chloroplasts, vacuoles, cytoplasm, etc. (each one with a special job to do in maintaining the life and function of the lily).
So Christ knew exactly what he was talking about when he instructed his disciples to "consider the lilies." When we do, they will provide us with some valuable insights into the being who created them.