Tuesday, December 15, 2015
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
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?
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)
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.
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.
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."
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
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
(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
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.)
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.
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?
Jesus proclaims the Lord our God is one Lord
What is your greatest assurance in God?
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.
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.
The gift of the Holy Spirit (John 14:17)
He who was with us was not in us.
The Giver of the Holy Spirit (John 3:34; Luke 11:13)
Every perfect gift is from the Father.
The gifts of the Holy Spirit (I Cor 12a)
A differentiation between gifts and talents in the believer.
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)
The gift that is in youKindling afresh the gift of God which is in you.