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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 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. 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.

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:

what God sought to impress on Israel

God sought to impress something on Israel for all time when He spoke through his servant Moses in Deuteronomy 6:4,5; the Shema. There are various words and phrases which appear before and after the Shema. Here are a few of those words and phrases:

the commandment, the statutes and the judgments . . . to teach . . . to keep . . . you should listen . . . Hear, oh Israel . . . These words . . . talk of them . . . bind as a sign . . . You shall write them . . .

All of these words and phrases are about the words God was saying to Moses in that moment. Since Deuteronomy is a second telling of the law to Israel those words and phrases are as much about what God had said (past) already. These were things which Israel was to learn and keep as of that day. (present) Israel was to teach these things to their children going forward. (future) Their children were to learn, keep and teach these things to impress to their children; generation after generation.

This is what Israel was to understand from that moment going forward. Israel was to understand that the revelation of the will of God was one in unity and harmony as is God. Israel was to understand that 1) everything that God said was to be obeyed, 2) everything that Moses said that God said was to be obeyed, 3) everything that the prophets said God said was to be obeyed, 4) everything that Jesus said was from the Father said was to be obeyed, 5) everything that the apostles said was from the Holy Spirit was to be obeyed, and 6) everything that the saints in Christ read from the written word as what God said was to be obeyed. There is no variation. There is no discrepancy. What God said is no less the authoritative commandment of God after he spoke it, when it was repeated, before it was written, after it was written, before it was printed, after it was printed and when the reading of his commandments is heard by listeners. The saints in Christ are living in a time when many among them, as in the days of ancient Israel, so desperately and frantically seek after something, surely, anything that is flashier than words.

There is complete, total harmony and oneness from beginning to end from God himself, from Moses, from the prophets, from Jesus, from the apostles and the saints. This is the unity, oneness, true nature, characteristic and description of God who is one; not a quantitative, numeric value; as is his word so too is the Father, with the Son, with the Holy Spirit. 

Jesus accomplished his objective when the Jews articulated their response to these words of Jesus: I and the Father are one. (John 10:30) Specifically and technically as the text reads in English, (rest easy. we’re not going Greek) these four expressions in order, 1) I and the Father are one, 2) You . . . yourself out to be God, 3) You are gods, and 4) I am the Son of God spoken between the Jews and Jesus equate to and amount to the same thing. This is the clarification which Jesus reveals openly even if they no more understand him than they understand the scriptures.


the Word that came


These words from the psalmist were taken by Jesus to respond to that situation in which the Jews were ready to stone him. The application of these words was, on the surface, simple enough: if God called "gods" those (men and women) to whom the word of God came why are you (the Jews) so upset because I (Jesus) say, I am the Son of God? Unlike those to whom the word of God came, the word did not come to Jesus: He was the Word that came into the world that was with God and is God. (John 1) Ironically, the psalmist's words have come to be taken by some as a back paddling, denial or diminishing by Jesus himself of any semblance of self-claims of his deity as well as any mistaken claims concerning the deity of Jesus by his followers. Ostensibly, and perhaps arguably and for the sake of discussion, one could conclude that, 1) Jesus had misspoken some things about himself, or 2) that the Jews had misunderstood him. However, after stirring their minds concerning the scriptures and the meaning of what they read in those scriptures what follows in the passage debunks both of these conclusions.


The works


The fact is that the Jews had failed to understand the scripture. Jesus did not expound the theology of the text, but he held firmly to his assertion. What he did urge and direct them to examine for significance and understanding was the works which they had seen Jesus perform before their own eyes. These works were just as powerful as the scripture and capable of bringing them to faith in Jesus. The works were what the Father had given him to perform in order that they might believe in the one whom the Father had sent.


the prophet


There is another instance which serves as an example in which the Jews' revealed their misunderstanding of the scriptures. It was concerning what they had likely been taught by the scribes about the prophet (Deuteronomy 18) mentioned by Moses. The popular belief and expectation of that prophecy by Moses was reflected by the Jews. (John 6:14) They expected an individual who would fulfill that prophecy. This mistaken interpretation is just as common among Christians today. However, in the only two instances in which the Deuteronomy 18 reference to the prophet is found in the New Testament it is cited by Peter and Stephen in Acts 3 & 7 respectively. The references to the prophet in both passages are encompassed by Peter and Stephen's messages with_ the prophets. Note the specific use of the plural form. The Deuteronomy 18 passage on the prophet was a prophecy concerning the succession of servants of God; the prophets, whom God would raise up from among Israel’s brethren to send to Israel. They were to heed and obey these prophets as messengers of God as much as they heeded the words which Moses was given by God.


There is something interesting in Peter's response to Jesus in Matthew 16 as to the people's view concerning the identity of Jesus. Peter did not include the prophet of Deuteronomy 18 in that popular survey concerning the people's understanding of the identity of Jesus. Conversely, Jesus did not correct the Samaritan woman in John 4 when she stated that she perceived he was a prophet. However, Jesus was aware of that popular perception of himself as a prophet and he was quite willing to be cast along with the prophets who suffered, were despised and rejected, and without honor except in their own hometown.


what Jesus said, might have said, should have said, and what he did not say


There is much in our view of scripture, but so much of it centers on what Jesus might have or should have said and what he did not say. The problem with these approaches is that they reflect a test of God where not only do we presume to tell God to jump when we say jump in order for him to prove that he is mighty and that he is God or to tell him how high we want him to jump in order for us to believe beyond all doubt. This is the similar approach to the words, he called them gods.


There is the cry (it's hardly an argument) that Jesus DID NOT say he was God. He didn't jump when he could have and should have jumped if he really intended to prove to the Jews that he was indeed God. This is a play on the single word god with the intent to dilute and generalize it as conveying anything meaningful about the deity of Jesus. Yet, does anyone who plays that single word in that manner do likewise with the word lord? After all, it’s use is widespread in the Old Testament. Would anyone conclude therefore that the lord is not god? (caps being of no significance) If the word god was applied, as Jesus noted, to mortals to whom the word of God came would anyone conclude that there is no God, just mere mortal men and nothing more? These are rhetorical questions, but the reality is that the answers are often speculative questions themselves seemingly to create the impression that the questioner, especially when there are no responses to his questions, must certainly be right and definitely understands the subject in discussion.


conclusion


What Jesus responded to the Jews when he quoted the psalmist was neither a denial of his deity nor a diminishing of his deity so as to calm down the enraged Jews. Today, some saints in Christ, like the Jews, struggle to understand both the works and words of Jesus and the scriptures. The only time that Jesus denied an accusation and responded to it immediately was when the Jews accused him of having a demon (John 8:49) and of doing works by the power of Satan. (Matthew 12:22-29) The Jewish misunderstanding of the scriptures which cannot be broken was indeed severed when it became a muddle of disjointed, piecemeal words of God without the unity that is the God who is one. We, the saints in Christ, have every opportunity to accept the challenge of the Spirit when we go to the scriptures for our understanding, edification and teaching.

Peace to the saints in Christ Jesus, the Son of God, our Lord and Savior.