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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Isaiah 6

questions and claims


Who is God? Who is the Father? Who is YHWH? Who is the Lord? Who is Yeshua? Who is Jesus? Who is the Holy Spirit? Who is the Son of God? Who is the LORD?


Self-described Unitarians, Trinitarians and Jehovah’s’ Witnesses make claims concerning God.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Crucifixion: Blunt Heart Trauma

Trauma has a way of producing change, even a radical transformation, in the lives of those who experience it. Trauma may be physical, emotional as well as literal, virtual, or some would say; spiritual. This is true of the transition which a person undergoes from being one who does not believe in Jesus to who believes and puts his or her trust in Jesus. It is a blunt trauma of the heart to which the believer submits knowingly, gladly, resolutely, and sometimes, fearfully. Here is something to ponder: How then do some saints emerge from blunt heart trauma unchanged much less transformed?

no euphemisms

Crucifixion is a trauma. There are no euphemisms for it. There is nothing nice, pretty, presentable or acceptable about crucifixion. Despite the efforts of some saints to qualify and diminish the graphic imagery of crucifixion, especially for young children when they surprise their parents, by referring to it as a spiritual crucifixion or spiritual death it is no less a frightening specter than physical death.


Here are some of those efforts as they are reflected in the expressions which have come to displace such an unsightly thing as crucifixion and to be warmly embraced:  accept Jesus, ask Jesus to come into your heart, get saved, let us pray, get baptized, or a relationship with Jesus.


Crucifixion is what Jesus experienced literally. Trauma is what the believer who comes to follow after Jesus experiences when he takes up his cross; a reference to crucifixion which Jesus never hid or downplayed. He made it quite clear.


When a person emerges from a physical trauma there is a period of time before he/she can think and speak clearly and coherently. This may be even more so if there was therapy or surgery following a person’s emotional or physical trauma. It may take a long time and in some instances they never fully recover; they learn to carry on with their lives and make adjustments in their lives.


You say what? Does Jesus call the believer to experience a trauma? Well, as much as he does call the believer to be crucified Jesus also left it for the believer to ponder and make the call for himself or herself as to whether or not he would take up his cross and follow after Jesus. Blunt heart trauma is serious business. It is not for the weak-hearted. This is the simple, hard and clear test to which Jesus calls those who love him BEFORE they decide to follow after him. Their love is greater either towards Jesus or towards their own lives and if the latter, Jesus said, they cannot be his disciple.


This is how the apostle Paul related his life experience as a crucified man:


"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20)


no accident


What seems phenomenal and baffling about the trauma of crucifixion to the nonbeliever is that it is not an accident. Furthermore, it does not cause damage. It is incurred by the believer joyfully as his/her ultimate response of love with heart, mind, soul and strength towards God. Crucifixion is of oneself. It is not something done to anyone. It is not taking anyone’s life, but laying down one’s own life in obedience to Jesus as Lord and Savior when we discover the compelling power of the love and grace of God towards sinners.


The after effects of trauma of the heart, mind, or brain, while not necessarily damaging, can result in vast, radical changes especially if it involves the loss of memory. Sometimes memory may be recovered. Sometimes one can articulate something they were capable of doing before the trauma and that helps their recovery. Other times they may do things as they did them before they experienced the trauma, but have no memory or realization that what they are doing is exactly as they did it in the past.


an anecdote


What does all this talk about the trauma of crucifixion have to do or say to the saints in Christ? First, a brief anecdote. I remember a man who heard, learned and understood the gospel message. He declared his decision to be immersed for the forgiveness of his sins. I was struck by what I heard from him. I also failed to discern. It was something which I had heard before, but I still missed it. He would not stop his talk about all that he was going to do for the cause of Jesus and taking the gospel message to his friends and family. Sounds impressive doesn’t it. Sounds promising doesn’t it. Sounds exciting doesn’t it.


Yet what may sound and seem good to our undiscerning ears is that we are listening to is a dead making plans. Dead men do not make breakfast plans. What awaits the believers is the dawn of a not only a new day, but a new life. A new in which all things are new. A new day in which whatever noble or selfish plans, thoughts and memory of those things are simply not part of the new day. This is the effect of blunt heart trauma.


no trauma


How is then, that men and women, with no less seemingly good and noble intentions in Christ, go into the waters of their rebirth and emerge with the same mindset, same mentality, completed untouched, hardly changed and the transformation of blunt heart trauma of crucifixion being seriously questionable?


the walking dead


Is it any wonder why some saints will hold tenaciously to particular notions from their past? They mistakenly equate the teaching of scripture which they may have never read or never understood with what they had always heard. Dead men who have been born anew living with their notions and memory from the past? They walk in and among the assembly of the living as but as if they never experienced the trauma of crucifixion clutching in their hand the plans with which they went into their watery grave.


This is what he said to those in the church at Corinth whose confident boast was that they had known Jesus in the flesh during life and ministry:


For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all,therefore all died;
15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.
16 Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. (II Corinthians 5:16)


Boasting has a way of displacing the love of Christ which controls us.


This absence of transformation of heart, mind, soul and strength was evident for Jesus in what he saw in the Sadducees, Pharisees and scribes who questioned him with their scenarios involving dead men and one woman. (Mark 12) The resurrection, in which the Sadducees did not believe, was at the heart of their question. The response by Jesus to them is one of my favorites because of the way he prefaces and ends (underlined) his response.


Jesus said to them, "Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God?
25 "For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.
26"But regarding the fact that the dead rise again, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the burning bush, how God spoke to him, saying, 'I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, and the God of Jacob '?
27 "He is not the God of the dead, but of the living; you are greatly mistaken."


conclusion


There are two things in the Mark 12 passage which are commonly heard from the walking dead who avoid and resist the blunt heart trauma of crucifixion of the heart, mind, soul and strength. It is that, like the Sadducees, they are much better at conjuring up scenarios in defense of their views. These are views which they held quite tenaciously before coming to Jesus rather than the teaching of the scriptures. This is not surprising. They do not understand the scriptures or the power of God, hence, they are greatly mistaken. This lack of understanding and mistaken characteristic of them is true and evident in a multitude of matters of doctrine and faith as concerns the building up of the saints and the glory of Jesus as our Lord and Savior of the body of believers. Do not expect to see or be refreshed by rivers of water flowing from their innermost being.


Second, like the scribe in verse 24 and 38, they parrot what is safe in the presence of men while thinking, like the scribe, to impress Jesus. True enough, there was nothing wrong in what the scribe parroted back to Jesus (Jesus saw that he answered him, intelligently) just like brothers and sisters who parrot/post a passage but have no more to contribute towards the understanding and edification of the saints than a nonbeliever.


The scribe is the example of a blunt heart trauma-free disciple in heart, mind, soul and strength. Granted the scribe was living in the time before the crucifixion of Jesus, but like blunt heart trauma-free disciples today he too played it safe and stuck to parroting his script.


This is not to say one has a duty to accompany every posting of scripture in social media with an in-depth or lengthy explanation and discussion. It is to say that the saints, as I am glad to see often happens in these Facebook boards, ought not hold back from confronting and challenge those who either care not to edify and enlighten the saints or they are interested merely in their appearance before men. The do not bear or show evidence of the blunt heart trauma of crucifixion.  Paul was able to say,  From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus. (Galatians 6:17)

Do not be afraid. The transformation in love towards our heavenly Father of our heart, mind, soul and strength is the call of Jesus for those who walk among the living in the Spirit and fellowship of the saints in Christ.

Friday, December 11, 2015

T'is The Season

Every year the saints in Christ are confronted with every religious holiday such as Christmas. They are confronted either by their own conscience or by others for their holiday practices and observances. Often the condemnation and justification for the observance of Christmas is filled with wrong information and outright ignorance by those who judge and those who are judged. I would like to take a brief moment to hopefully edify and encourage my brothers and sisters in the faith. You can apply this to Christmas, but it holds true of any holiday.
The apostle Paul in Romans 14 had something to say about those saints who feel compelled to judge their brothers and sisters who observe a holiday. He had something to say, as well, to those who feel compelled to judge their brothers and sisters who do not observe a holiday. Two of the searing charges made against the observance by Christians of the Christmas holiday is that 1) the holiday does not appear in the scriptures, and 2) the origins of Christmas are pagan.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

One In US

(This is a study series I have written and submitted to my elders to be presented at whatever time they choose. It is a related followed to The Indwelling of Deity in the Believer.)

The God who is one
who works
all things in all persons
(A two-part study series on the God who is one with a follow-through on
the many gifts of his Spirit for the one body.)

Part I
God is one
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
(A study on the God who is one and His work in the saints.)

Purpose: That the saints in Christ may be assured in the knowledge that God who is one.
Approach: A focus on the Shema (Deuteronomy 6) and Father, Son & Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1)
Goal: That the saints may understand and rejoice in the work of unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in them.

Lesson 1

God pronounces his unity

What is your assurance about God when you engage with those who do not know and do not understand God? How would you like to assure believers and nonbelievers?

Lesson 2

Jesus proclaims the Lord our God is one Lord

What is your greatest assurance in God?

Lesson 3

Paul declares the work of Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1)

What Paul reveals about purpose, fulfillment and affirmation in Father, Son and Holy Spirit.



Part II
The gift of the Father / The gifts of God
(An examination of gifts from I Corinthians 12)

Purpose: That the saints in Christ may discover the gift God has given them.
Approach: A brief examination of gifts in I Corinthians 12 w/reference to similar passages.
Goal: That the saints may rejoice confidently in the gift/gifts God has given them.

Lesson 1

The gift of the Holy Spirit (John 14:17)
He who was with us was not in us.

Lesson 2


The Giver of the Holy Spirit (John 3:34; Luke 11:13)

Every perfect gift is from the Father.

Lesson 3

The gifts of the Holy Spirit (I Cor 12a)

A differentiation between gifts and talents in the believer.

Lesson 4

The Gift which works through you

It is the same Spirit, the same Lord, the same God who works all things in all persons. (I Cor 12b)

Lesson 5
The gift that is in you
Kindling afresh the gift of God which is in you.

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Begotten Son

The Begotten Son is the subject of so much back and forth particularly as this refers or applies to Jesus, and more pointedly, how it refers to Jesus.

the name of God

One of simple but key points which the saints in Christ continue to overlook and forget was the poor, mistaken notions which the Jews conjured up concerning the name of God. Lest any one of them might even unwittingly or inadvertently misuse or blaspheme the name of God the Jews thought to implement what they doubtlessly thought was an improvement, as men tend to do, over what God had declared.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Spirit of Truth: With You and In You

The Indwelling of Deity in the Believer by Gilbert Torres

A few days ago I received an email from a friend I met several years ago on Interfaith Dialogue in Orkut in pre-Facebook days. It had been a very long time since I had heard from him, but I was greeted with the usual, endless barrage of questions including castigations on Christians and broad swipes on scripture. This from a man who states, and I believe him, that he is a seeker of truth. He struggles with what he sees as the shortfall of disciples to walk the talk of Jesus. As much as I agreed with him I also noted that this is the familiar tactic where the seeker turns his focus away from the unpleasantries of being crucified with Christ. It is easier to look and point out the shortcomings in others than to stay focused on our own cross. He agreed. I limited my focus to one or two questions which, in turn, I related to all his other questions instead of trying to answer every tidal wave of questions. One of the many matters which he struggles to grasp is the Holy Spirit. I pointed out to him that this is true of a lot of saints in Christ.


A breakthrough occurred

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Sin, Righteousness, Judgment, and ISIS

a call


The infamy of the atrocity in Paris by purported ISIS terrorists, whether or not they are associated with ISIS being immaterial, evokes sadness, lament, empathy, bitterness and rage rightfully, but little understanding particularly among the saints in Christ. Much of the response from Christians is often to parrot what is heard in the news and social media, from friends and others who know not God. The dialog is often more of a reveling in the flesh, that is, a mindset which focuses and sees only what is readily apparent without any thought to those things not as readily visible or apparent. It is a dialog which does not reflect the understanding and teaching as one expects from those in whom dwells the Holy Spirit. This is not a condemnation of America or her friends. Certainly, it is not a condemnation of friends and family who have suffered the attack in Paris. It is not a condemnation of the saints in Christ. Rather it is a call, beginning with the disciples of Jesus and then nonbelievers, to examine themselves and their understanding of what they profess to know and believe of the scriptures and the teachings of Jesus in our response to ISIS; the unbelieving.


a judgment


The thoughts, intentions, teachings and actions of ISIS and those who applaud ISIS are evil.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

I Opposed Him to His Face

Now playing as the unopposed main attraction in some assemblies: dancing, displays of euphoria and ecstasy, notions of speaking to God and other displays of piety and devotion. Some saints are intimidated and silenced when they see these things. They assume that since they cannot understand it, it must be something which can not be understood. Therefore, it must be a mystery from God which can not be understood

things we say and do

Often it is so much easier to put on a grand display of so-called piety and devotion rather than to understand. Can the saints know whether what another saint does or says is from the Spirit or a self-delusion? How does one know? Does the mere claim from one who says and does those things that he/she is in the Spirit make it so? There are things, such as demonstrations of love, which we say and things which we do for others and for ourselves. When we say and do things to or direct those things, such as with unknown or ulterior motives, at someone they may be with good or evil intent. Then there are those things which we say and do because of someone else, that is, we are inspired or motivated by someone else in those things which we do.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

For Our Instruction: The Past, Present and Future of Israel

Promise, conquest and comfort, environment and military, unfaithfulness, and restoration are all part of the history of Israel. Although we do think or associate famine, drought, pestilence and infestation with Israel these too were a part of Israel’s history. Of course, present day Jews look at Israel in the scriptures and draw a straight line, rightly so, to connect themselves between then and now. My purpose here is neither to affirm or deny that connection. The title of this article is not about what it probably conjures up in your mind. This article will not delve into Israel as it exists today or the popular speculations of some Christians concerning OT prophecies in Israel today. It is not a expose or a thrashing of Israel as a people or a sovereign nation. Rather, it is a view of ancient Israel from the time it was a mere promise which God made to one man all the way through a brief period until the fulfillment of that promise, and then, to what befell Israel when it forsook the covenant which God had made with Israel on the basis of that promise and the eventual restoration of Israel. The focus of this article is taken from Romans 15:4 in the New Testament (NT) where the apostle Paul wrote to a young church in Rome about the value of the ancient scriptures.


For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Government and Church


Summary: This article is about the concept of government as church. Make no mistake about it. This is not to equate or unify the two as one. They each serve a very different purpose, but the different purposes of the same God who is one. There are seven aspects, roles or functions of government which are examined in this article, which are similar to the body of believers, that is, the church. Clearly, the saints in Christ have a model in the scriptures from which they are able to draw and assess those roles and functions in government. Five of these seven are presented here mostly in light of the New Testament (NT) scriptures with the other two viewed in the light of God’s commandment to the nation of Israel in the Tanakh, the Old Testament (OT) scriptures. Government in America is not unique to America and despite its secular nature, it represents a challenge and opportunity for the saints in Christ to understand how government is an active instrument of God. Government, as an instrument of God is quite capable of making manifest the will, love, compassion and justice of God. Yes, it is capable of making manifest the mercy of God among those who know not the love of God in Jesus as Lord and Savior, also.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

He called them gods

34 Jesus answered them, "Has it not been written in your Law, 'I SAID, YOU ARE GODS '?
35 "If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken ),
36 do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God '? (John 10)


the objective of Jesus


Jesus, in the gospel according to John, reiterated these words from Psalm 82 to the Jews who took offence at him. They were ready to stone him, as they said, not for doing a good work, but for blasphemy. This was the blasphemy, as the Jews saw it, for which they were ready to stone Jesus because You, being a man, make yourself out to be God. Jesus knew quite well why they wanted to stone him when he posed the question to them I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?


The dialog into which Jesus drew them was in order for them to articulate what they did not understand about the scriptures (and the scripture cannot be broken) but which they could see plainly with their own eyes. This is an understatement about the unbroken unity of the scripture as the revelation of the word of God. Here is a clip from my blog article:

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Sisters in Christ: Fulfilling the Ministry of Teaching and Preaching

two reasons

There are two reasons, one really, often given for not only the suppression of sisters in Christ to fulfill their ministry in preaching and teaching. There is the outright denial for them do so, also. The first reason on which all other reasons behind this dogma are rooted is in the Genesis account. The reason, according to proponents of this teaching, centers on 1) the order of creation, and 2) the woman sinned first.

The second related reason for this suppression and denial is essentially the same as the first reason. It is found in I Timothy 2 and is directly associated with and related to the Genesis account by the apostle Paul. Again, the argument from the I Timothy passage, proponents argue, is that the passage is clear enough and requires no interpretation. The apostle Paul conveyed to Timothy who was in Ephesus that he did not permit a woman to teach. Paul then proceeded to give two clear, specific reasons as to why he forbade women to teach, 1) Adam was created first, and 2) it was Eve who was deceived. The similarity between I Timothy 2 and the Genesis account is undeniable. It seems quite clear, right?

a third reason

A third reason is actually the response to any plausible explanations and suggestions concerning Paul's instructions in the light of his and Timothy's ministry under the shadow of the temple of Artemis in Ephesus to dismiss these as nonsense, irrelevant and unnecessary. The reason these are dismissed, proponents argue, is because Paul never mentions Artemis. This is quite true. However, this response also reflects an utter oversight and neglect of the one who did mention Artemis, namely, Luke in Acts 19. Yahweh was to the Jews in Jerusalem and Judea what Artemis was to the Gentiles in Ephesus and Asia. See the testimony of Demetrius in Acts 19 concerning the widespread presence and influence of Artemis. (The content of this article is covered in this lengthier article.

what the saints learn

Yet, the saints in Christ mostly embrace and parrot what those who lead, teach and preach and declare as dogma. There is no need for any substantive exposition of the scriptures or understanding for the edification of the saints. The teaching to the saints concerning our sisters in Christ is rooted more on male dominance than servanthood. One clear indicator of this is how teaching and preaching are equated with and viewed as synonymous with leadership. Such notions of dominance are unknown to a servant. Those who teach and preach are foremost called to be servants, specifically in the ministry of the word of the Lord. Furthermore, the tokenism that sisters in Christ can indeed teach and preach _ to other sisters has the same, familiar shade and ring of another time when black brothers in Christ, to say nothing of our sisters under that male-dominant fellowship of the saints, lived under the dire spoken and unspoken message that they, too could indeed preach and teach _ to other blacks only. There are three responses as to why these reasons are an insufficient explanation to the words of Jesus and Paul. My response to these explanations is in the following order: the second reason, then the first reason and the third reason last.

First, lets look at the response to the explanation of Artemis to the second reason that Paul's instructions to Timothy to forbid women from teaching are clear and require no interpretation. If this were an example of the right handling of the scriptures it ought to hold equally true of other equally clear texts. Here is one of those texts: Matthew 5. When was the last time you knew or heard of  someone who put out the eye that offended them? When was the last time you knew or heard of someone who cut off the hand that offended them? Of course, the point is that these very clear words of Jesus are invariably presented and taught with an explanation. Why? Is there something about the text of these words of Jesus which is not clear? The indication concerning Paul's words to Timothy, at the very least, is that while they may be quite clear they, like those words of Jesus, require an interpretation and explanation. It is hardly responsible to stake a case with the argument that Paul never mentioned Artemis and here is why such irresponsibility is suspect.

Just as it is true that the apostle Paul never mentioned Artemis in I Timothy and his other writings; Jesus never mentioned Rome in Matthew 24. This was the prophecy of Jesus concerning the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome in 70 AD. Those words of Jesus were just as much as the words of Paul a matter of salvation; the former concerning the physical salvation of the saints in Jerusalem, the latter concerning the spiritual salvation of the saints in Christ in Ephesus. Does the fact that Jesus did not mention Rome by name mean that the disciples were clueless as to what the words of Jesus might mean? How is that the saints are able to discern the political power in question, namely, Rome in Matthew 24, but seem so utterly clueless to discern the spiritual power in question, but clearly named by Luke in Acts 19 as Artemis in Ephesus? Now, with this very brief orientation on Artemis as a real factor in Paul's message and ministry and Ephesus in mind lets backtrack to the first of the two reasons on the order of creation and who sinned first.

Second, the explanation that Paul was reiterating a primer in I Timothy 1 on Jewish theology on the Genesis creation account for the Gentile saints in Christ may possibly have elicited a hearty amen from the Jews and a nice response from the Gentiles. However, Paul's mission was considerably more than eliciting hardy amens from his listeners. His mission was to debunk and dethrone the deception of Artemis before the Gentiles in Ephesus and throughout Asia and to that end what he wrote to Timothy would likely have resonated with the Gentiles as being in opposition to Artemis. They were familiar with and knew the claims of Artemis of being born first and then assisting her mother Leto give birth to her twin brother, Apollo. They were familiar with and knew the claims of Artemis as being the savior of women in childbirth. Contrast these claims of Artemis with Paul's words throughout his letters (five of six written to churches and individuals in Asia; six if Titus is included) concerning Jesus as the firstborn and the savior, not of women only, but of all mankind.

The following is an excerpt from my article, The belief of childbearing in I Timothy 2.


There are three elements Paul bears out concerning salvation and which focus exclusively on the woman: 1) the instruction (I do not permit a woman to teach), 2) the reason for the instruction ( FOR Adam was first formed . . . BUT the woman being deceived), and 3) the expected results from the instruction (BUT she will be saved through her childbearing). There is a another instance of an objective with a similar end result involving the salvation of a certain individual who became the focus of Paul's admonition in I Corinthians chapter five. Paul gave an instruction deliver such a one to Satan, (I Corinthians 5:5a) the reason for that instruction, for the destruction of his flesh, (I Corinthians 5:5b) and that his spirit may be saved. (I Corinthians 5:5c) The progression from point 1 to point 2 to point 3 in the I Timothy passage suggests these (instruction, reason for instruction and expected results from that instruction) are related and are inseparable. Any response to one part can not be done while disregarding or discarding the other two.


So, why did Paul, given the NT examples of obedience to the gospel message of salvation (a belief) through faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior state the expected results for points 1 & 2 in point 3 that the woman will be saved through her childbearing?

The apostle Paul's reference to the creation account would not be something with which his former pagan brethren would be familiar. What would definitely resonate with them was the references to firstborn and savior as these related to Artemis. They learned from Paul and Timothy that 1) not only were Adam and Eve NOT born, but they were CREATED, and 2) Jesus was FIRSTBORN, not from woman, but from the dead through the power of the RESURRECTION. (see Paul exposition on the Begotten from Psalm 2 in Acts 13)

conclusion

The instruction of Paul concerning the silence of our sisters and to not permit them to teach can not be appraised without acknowledging the presence and influence of Artemis in Paul's ministry and message. Those sisters, priestesses particularly, who had emerged out of the cult of Artemis and had become disciples of Jesus as Savior could easily be mistaken for teaching a message of Artemis. It was simply not expedient for them to be teaching at the time. The time would come for them to join with their brothers in the fulfillment of their ministry in teaching and preaching. The instruction to them to learn quietly and to forbid them to not teach was no different than when the apostle himself was earlier in his travels and on the way to Ephesus was, not once, but twice forbidden to preach in north Asia by the Holy Spirit . Just as we do not see or read, but rightly understand, that the prohibition on Paul by the Holy Spirit was removed it is neither a stretch nor implausible to understand that the same was true of our sisters in Ephesus. Admittedly, the idea of being present with a sister teaching or preaching is not in my comfort zone, but heeding and proclaiming the word of God is not about what makes us or keeps us comfortable.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Image and Power

It is hard to look anywhere and not see it. It is seen from both the rich and the poor as well as from the school dropout and school graduate. It is a flexing, an exhibition, a taunting, a display, a flaunting. It may be through speech, actions or behavior. The sole purpose is to impress and shock through displays of image and power. It may be loud. It may be crass. It may be subtle. It may be manipulative. It may be forceful. It may be humorous. It may be violent. Image and power may even be, in this cyber age, virtual.


These two, image and power, as seen by the witting and the unwitting, the impressed and the shocked are not necessarily true, typically. These are not necessarily actual or substantive. These, whether or not it is intended, merely convey the desired effect on others what is the individual's desire and notion of image and power. These two are not necessarily mutually exclusive and even though I have presented these two separate from each other they are very much intertwined. If these appear as negatively cast in this article it is not because image and power are wrong or evil. Rather, it is because this is the reality of what has become corrupt. These facades of image and power are represented and assumed as though these were real.


the image of attire and body


What are some ways by which image is conveyed? Here are two of those ways. The image of abundance, of affluence or simply having a little more than just barely enough on which to live, may be displayed through the clothes one wears. It may be the expensive brand which speaks for itself or how the clothes are worn. Clothes may be worn to reveal, (such as underwear; more on that later) to form-fit the body so as to accent the physical shape or to reveal as much flesh as the wearer wishes to expose and to elicit arrest for indecency. Image, such as through clothes, is not necessarily what one wears, but how one wears what he or she wears.


The image of rebellion such as against parents or society may be conveyed, for example, through leather, metal spikes, chains, tattoos and more. However, rebellion can and is conveyed just as well through nothing more than an attitude, speech and behavior. Additions to one's attire such as these are intended to project the desired image of being bad, a hard case, a bad-ass, or the neutral non-commitment of indifference and apathy. After all, what could be cooler in the eyes of the witting and unwitting than to project the image that, I don't care? Isn't this the shallow, empty image message of sagging pants? The exposing of one's underwear is to simultaneously reveal to the witting and unwitting the individual's great, abysmal facade and farce of an image of power. So, unlike affluence and abundance, or their seeming presence in the person's life, the image of rebellion, by its very nature, is not likely to be closely associated with clothes as much as it is behavior.


the need for image and image change


America is a consumer-driven society. Don't like your image? We'll find one for you. We'll get you one. We'll make one for you. It is not in society's interest, and quite understandably, it is not the business of society, to redirect the new-image shopper back to square one. So, why do you need an image?


What if image didn't involve succumbing to peer pressure, seasonal, annual refurbishing or reinvention? How about if it were detached, removed and free of all association with gender and the clothes you wear? Does this sound like a ridiculous and preposterous notion in our consumer-driven society? Yet, image as a reality and a discussion point appears in the dialog of the Bible in the book of Genesis, that is, the book of beginnings. It is there that after the narrative relates how God created man it also notes that God created man, that is, mankind, man and woman, and MADE them in the image of God.


This image of God in the man and woman had nothing to do with gender.

The reason it had nothing to do with gender is because whatever the image of God might be, for the moment and for later discussion, it is definitely not related to the physical features which define the male and female body. In other words, any view of the image of God which fails to account for the differences in the human male and female body is less than true to the image of God. What does this say about image?


It says that image is as embedded and is as permanent and non-removable as is our human DNA code.

The deception of image to which Eve succumbed unwittingly was not unlike women, and men, today. She desired what was 1) pleasant to the eyes (it looked good), 2) it was good to eat (it was filling), and 3) it would make her wise, or proud (something to boast about).


When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:6, also I John 2:16)


The reason why anyone would feel they do not have an image, that they need an image or that they need to upgrade their image like something from the American tech mall is because they either 1) never knew they were born with an image, 2) they forgot they were born with an image, or 3) they rejected the truth of the image with which they were born. Knowledge nor acknowledgment of God is not a prerequisite for anyone to ponder this reality.


The impudence of blatant consumerism! The business of image has gone, in the vernacular of technology, from the hardware upgrades of attire to the software alterations of gender image in complete oblivion as to the ramifications. The desire for mistaken notions of image by women and men today is no different than Eve's complete oblivion to the ramifications of her disobedience. The embrace and allowable peddling of image by therapists and surgeons is akin to accepting without question the salesman's pitch for a new computer when a simple removal of temporary files would have improved speed and performance.


made in the image of God


What is it about the image of God which can not be found, will not be found and can not be made in the American tech mall? How could a believer who once knew the image of God forget it? Why would he or she reject the image of God? The salient point of the human response to these questions is as understandable as it is undeniable. For example, a Ford does not cease to be a Ford with a new paint job. swapping an icon or by calling it a Chevrolet. These things do not change the fact that it is a Ford which has been altered to look like a Chevrolet. It would not take much for even a casual observer to discern that despite all efforts and appearances the car is, in fact, a Ford. Amazingly enough, what holds true of a metal and plastic car holds equally true of a flesh and bones human being.


It is not as though altering one's image hurts anyone else, as is so often heard, but what is it and how is it then, that image can be obscured and overlooked in favor of an American mall-purchased image? How is it that the image of God, that is, love, in which God made the man and the woman and which is certainly not available or found in the shopping mall, has come to be obscured and overlooked? Simply but truthfully stated it is a matter of looking of acceptance and love in all the wrong places.


This love is not to be mistaken for being loving which God is that, too. What the scriptures reveal is that it was the will and purpose of God to make the man and woman with this same love. It was his will to imbue the man and the woman with his love. It was this love which it pleased God to see in the physical love affection between the man and woman; the husband and wife. It is the love of God and towards God which becomes a far greater reality between the man and the woman when they reclaim the image of God for themselves and towards all mankind through faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior.


Love, not gender, is the image of God. Love is divine and not natural.

Love is greater than what is natural, that is, what is earthly. Love is not easy because it is not the mere appearance of image or a facade. It is, on the other hand, easier to alter and call something love than to submit to love itself. Love is two different persons, two different personalities, two different genders working diligently  over a lifetime together to go past their differences and to make and display the love and unity that is the God who is one. This is the mystery and marvel; that two different human beings strive to be one like God and with God. It is the mystery and marvel seen in the human interaction and relationship of marriage. The failure and shortfall of image is that it is a facade of what has been altered. There is no glory in deceiving or being deceived by an image of what is false. There is no lasting joy in facades.


the will of power and death


The flesh, Jesus said, is weak. The reason the flesh appears to exert its power over the spirit is not because the flesh is strong. It is not because the spirit is weak. It is because the spirit calls and waits for those who hear its call to come in obedience and submission without manipulation, compulsion or coercion. This is not the way of the flesh.


Power is, even more so than image, flexed and flaunted to create the desired effect; that is, to impress and shock the witting and unwitting. It is a visual, carnal spectacle. The visual nature of power and how it reveals itself in the flesh exposes, for example, the hunger of bankers, performers, athletes and others for power. The carnal desire for power is not unlike the carnal desire for image: Eve desired what was 1) pleasant to the eyes (it looked good), 2) good to eat (it was filling), and 3) would make her wise, or proud (something to boast about).


Carnal, as in, carnival. Originally, carnival, literally, a farewell to meat, was the celebration and joy of meat and drink before the beginning of the days of fasting from meat and drink. Carnal is used in the scriptures in the representative, or symbolic sense, for what is opposed to the spirit, the Holy Spirit or a mind set on the things of this world.


This power is no more real or substantive than the image much desired and pursued by some. It is loud. It is the brash, crass, crude, rude, vulgar and a bravado of defiance in the song playing, in the workplace exchange, and even as is often displayed, between the bond of husband and wife. Children in such families are often nothing more than insignificant collateral casualties to obscenities and vulgarities. Crassness and vulgarities which were at one time indicators that the power of physical aggression was soon to follow are the stuff of casual exchanges as much between friends as between lovers. Some of the devices of power, in addition to words, of those who seek power include weapons to hurt,  maim or kill stranger, friend or family alike.


The quest for power is as old as the quest for image. The irony and the travesty of the events in the Garden of Eden is that by forgetting, neglecting and dismissing for one brief moment the image in which they were made, Eve and Adam corrupted their image. While they were obedient there was nothing to fear. There was no power over them. Yet, in the aftermath of their disobedience the immediate result was, as God himself stated, that the man and the woman had become like God knowing good and evil. However, the price they paid was heavy. The price was they acquired the association of power, but it was not to serve them. It was to lord it over them. The power was death.


Those who believe they are powerful because they have power never realize and never ask themselves what is that vague, remote sense of awareness in their minds: What is the fear from which this false notion of power delivers them? What is the ultimate power from which this false power can deliver them? The lust and hunger for image and power in the unwitting Eve and Adam was that their confidence before the Lord was lost. They covered their nakedness as a result.


the power of God


The truth is the power of the flesh with all its bravado, violence, trash talk, weapons and devices may fend off momentarily the assault, but death will have the last word over those who crave and thought they had power in those false images of power. What is the purpose of an image which alters or conceals one's true identity? Why does one have a need to conceal their true identity? What is the purpose of power which is exerted over others? Is it not because they lack the power and confidence to face and confront what they fear?

Death is the great equalizer. It is the sobering agent for those who are drunk with mistaken notions of image and power. The power of death is, not unlike the image in which God made man and woman, as undeniable and non-removable. What is one to do when they come to the realization of the deceptive futility of image and power? This is the beginning, the genesis, where one examines closely the claims and fulfillment of the message of Jesus concerning his own death, burial and resurrection.


Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 

15 and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. (Hebrews 2:14, 15)

The message (note the reference to power and the past tense of death) of this love of God, the apostle Paul wrote, is the power of God. More specifically and literally, the apostle Paul stated that the message of the gospel is the dynamite, (δύναμις, dunamis) , the power of God. The gospel has the explosive potential to transform the fearful and powerless into the image of God through the power of the gospel and the promise of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the believer. Be of good cheer.