Good Friday

Passion Week 2012.

As I approach Good Friday this year, I remember what I tweeted last year and am even now more convinced than ever that on Good Friday, we should reflect on the most important day for you and me in all of human history.  Granted, this is my opinion.  Some may think Easter or Christmas or some other day is the most meaningful.  But, when I consider what God did for us on Good Friday all those years ago, it takes my breath away.

I was separated from God with no humanly way to approach Him without dying.  It simply was not possible.  I would perish, be snuffed out of existence in His very presence.  I am not perfect and never have been and never will be.  But God, who is perfect, in His divine and personal love for me, decided that He wanted me to be able to be in fellowship and relationship with Him.  Forever.

To accomplish this, His very words had become human flesh like mine in the person of His Son, Jesus.[1]  So, God, through his human form Jesus, took on Himself all of the human pain, punishment and death that was rightfully mine for all of my disobedience.[2]  He took my place on the cross.  But, even more than that (yes, even more than that), God’s sacrifice of His son Jesus restored me to fellowship and a living relationship with Him.[3]

God’s plan would not be thwarted.  Jesus would be raised from the grave on Easter morning.  However, as of Good Friday, the penalty for my failure and indebtedness had been paid, and I was restored to communion with the Father.  The veil of the Holy of Holies in the earthly temple was rent from top to bottom,[4] and the presence of God was “unveiled” for me.[5]  By means of His own death, Jesus provided a way for me to approach my heavenly Father for the first time on my own without immediately being consumed by His wrath.  What incredible love!

Praise God for Jesus’ resurrection!  But Easter is about what God did for His son Jesus; while Good Friday is about what God and Jesus did for me.  Easter for me is simply the bonus for being “in Christ.”  Through His resurrection, I am raised with Jesus victorious over sin and death,[6] and get to share with Jesus all of the blessings and reward heaped upon Him by our Father.[7]  But through His death on Good Friday, I now have fellowship with God.

So, not to get all doctrinally jumbled or cause a ruckus, let me just say, I believe that Good Friday is the most meaningful, important day in all of human history.  I hope those of you that took the few seconds to read this will take a few minutes at least to reflect on what Good Friday means to you.  Have a great Easter weekend!

 

2013 Revisited.

I was about to post this again, and I wanted to add something that I have been thinking about for the past few months.  As wonderful as Good Friday was/is for us, the story really isn’t about us.  It was and has always been about God.  We benefited from Him wanting a relationship with us.  He reconciled us to Him,[8] not for our sakes, but because that is what HE wanted.  Praise His Name!

God, in the person of His son, died so that the wedge (created by our sin nature) between Him and us could be removed.  God actually died in fleshly form so that He could have fellowship with us.  Do you realize your worth to God and how He must see you?  You are worth everything to Him![9]


[1]           Jn 1:14a:  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

[2]           1 Pet 2:24:  He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

[3]           Rom 5:10:  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

[4]           Mt. 27:51

[5]           Ex. 26:31-33

[6]           Rom. 8:2

[7]           Eph. 2:6-7

[8]           2 Cor. 5:18-19:  All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

[9]           Jn. 15:13

Do I Have a Choice?

I wanted to revisit an earlier post about God being in control but is not controlling.  We are also in control of things.  God is in control but on a much higher realm than ours.  And, as I said before, when He chooses to intervene for His divine purposes in this realm of our lives, He does.  However, none of that alters the fact that we are in control of our own lives.  God doesn’t make our decisions for us.  Don’t get me wrong, He knows every decision we will make, but it’s still our decisions.

I love the picture of this concept displayed in the movie The Matrix Reloaded (the 2nd Matrix movie).  There is a scene near the end of the film where the human character Neo meets the Architect (a computer program in human form).  The meeting takes place in a room filled with television sets.  At some point during the discussion between the two, the Architect reveals a secret to Neo, and a dilemma.  The movie plot then confronts Neo with what he will choose to do in response to this situation.  The television screens on the wall of the room begin to show all of the different reactions or choices that Neo can (or will) make in response to the situation confronting him.  In this particular instance, it seems like there were 30-50 screens, each showing a scale or range of Neo’s responses or choices that he can make.

The Architect represents a fictional type of God.  He knows all of our choices that we can make every situation.  However, He doesn’t choose for us.  He has given us the power, authority and ability to make our own choices. And he knows what the result of our choice will be whether we choose what’s behind doors number one, two or three.  This is really hard to get my head around.  But, God sees all outcomes no matter what which one we choose.

There are times when I hear people say that God allows bad things to happen to people.  I don’t see it that way.  It’s not that God allows or disallows.  He set the world in motion and placed us here to have dominion and control over the natural things of this world.  I think bad things happen not because of what God allows, but because of what we allow.

I know that the bad things that happen in my life are the results of bad choices I have made or the bad choices that others have made which impact me.  I also know that the good things in my life are not the result of my choices, but the result of God’s mercy and blessing.  He doesn’t get blamed for the bad things in my life and He gets the glory for the good things in my life.

How then do I make choices which do not result in bad things happening to me or to others?  I must learn that my choices need to be made consistent with the leading and teaching of the Holy Spirit.  I must spend time in prayer and in the word so that my mind becomes renewed to the anointed word of God.  When I wake up and when I lie down.  When I am going out and when I am coming in.  My consciousness should be transformed to righteousness thinking rather than forever burdened by thinking only about sin and the consequences of sin.  (I am now free from the law of sin and death!)

This all must be done by faith.  In other words, by acting upon my beliefs.  My beliefs are developed by my time spent with Him.  Faith is acting upon those beliefs.  If you hear from God that he can save you if you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that he is your Savior, then this “hearing” what He says about your dilemma, shapes what you should believe.  You demonstrate your faith when you actually confess.

God’s grace (a topic for many future posts!) is a gift to you and me and everyone else.  The ability to choose to accept that gift of grace is part of your design.  You can choose to accept or reject a gift.  Including the gift of grace. (This is apparently in conflict with one of the points of Calvinism and I will have to address this in more detail in a later post.)

Adam chose to disobey in the Garden.  Adam didn’t have to choose to disobey.  God didn’t make Adam make the wrong choice, any more than God made Adam make a right choice on other occasions (apparently Adam and God had spent an undetermined amount of time communing with one another by taking walks together in the cool of the day).

God – as He does with us – even told Adam what the right choice was.  Like I said, we know what the right choices are as well because he has told us what to choose.

As the guardian knight of the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade succinctly put, “choose wisely.”

Give Peace a Chance

I recently saw where Bill Nye, The Science Guy raised the old argument about Creationism v. Evolution.  I like Bill Nye.  The kids enjoyed his show growing up and the Energy attraction at Epcot with him, Ellen DeGeneres, Alex Trebek and Jamie Lee Curtis has always been one of our favorites.

But what stirred this entry was the new fire thrown on the old debate about Science v. God, or the interpretation given by some to the Bible.  Some well-meaning (I hope) Christians of old denounce the scientific facts of mutation, adaptation, extinction and domination in various plant and animal species over the years.  They base their view on the fundamental belief that God created everything, and He did it in 7,000 years.  Let me just say right here, that such a view is simply unbelievable and inconsistent with God, the facts and the Bible.

God did create everything.  Jer. 10:12.  By his words, He created everything in the universe(s).  Heb. 11:3.  That is a given and can NEVER be disproved by science.  Never, ever.  So, there is no reason to even debate that issue.

God though is the greatest scientist.  He is not against science nor should any of His followers be against science and understanding.

The book of Genesis is – duh – a great place to start.  Gen 1:1 is an introductory sentence “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”  These “heavens” refer to space (as we call anything above the surface of the planet earth) and not the place where God resides Heaven (with a capital H).  God was around before “the beginning” and wherever He was, that was (and is) the capital H Heaven.  “The beginning” in Gen 1:1 refers to man’s place of abode and the natural world which is being described.

Again, Gen 1:1 is an introductory sentence.  Gen 1:2 is where the story begins.  Some folks over the years tried to come up with all these wild theories about what took place between 1:1 and 1:2, but none of that is necessary when you realize that 1:1 is an introduction, and the creation account actually begins with 1:2.

1:2 reveals that the natural world did not exist yet.  Our universe had not been created.  Until God’s Spirit was moving into the emptiness and vacuum which He was about to change.  BOOM! Gen 1:3. And God said, let there be electromagnetic radiation (or light to some).  This is what physicists refer to as the Big Bang.  Once we recognize that God was behind the Big Bang, Christians no longer have to dispute with non-believing scientific types about God.  We should love those folks and let them see Jesus in us.

A major source of the historical problem came from a misinterpretation of II Pet. 3:8.  Peter is writing to inquiring minds about when would be the second coming of Christ.  And he refers to a passage of scripture from Psalms about how God considers the concept of time.  “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”  To some this came to mean that the seven days referred to in Genesis 1, are nothing more than seven thousand years, each day being exactly one thousand years.  But, this is not what Peter said and it is not what he was basing his statement on.  He was referring to Psalm 90:4.  “For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is passed, or as a watch in the night.”  Peter was simply commenting that our concept of measuring time is not how God sees things.  A thousand years passing is just like yesterday passing.  It was not supposed to mean that we can say God’s Heavenly clock is based upon the amount of time it takes the third planet in a small outlying solar system in a midsize galaxy to circle (sort of) the star in the middle of the system.  God’s “time” (if such a concept even exists) is not limited to the way we here count days or years based upon the number of time the earth rotates as it orbits the star.

Moreover, the passage in Psalm 90:4 from where Peter was summarizing also says that a thousand years to God is not only like a yesterday, its equally comparable to a “night’s watch.”  This would have been anywhere from six to eight hours ( a third or fourth of a day) for when a guard upon a wall was set to keep watch for enemies/invaders.  So, if someone really wanted to turn the screw, they could argue that eight hours was actually the same as a thousand years; thus, the seven days of creation in Gen 1 are really three thousand years each day for a total of 21,000 years.  Do you see how this all nonsense?

We do not know how long it took God to form the natural universe.  If you are still in Psalm 90, look at verse 2.  The period before God brought forth the mountains and created the earth, was from everlasting to everlasting.  It’s pretty hard for us to know the times as seen by God, or everything to took place from when he spoke the universe into existence.  So if geologists tell us that the universe is billions of years old and the earth is four billion years old based upon the observable evidence, the Bible does not contradict that and why should there even be an argument about creation.  We know God created the universe because the Bible tells us so; why can’t we let the scientists show us what the observable evidence says about the way God created the worlds?

Which brings us to that general term evolution.  Since scientist have been looking at this stuff, there is no doubt that there is mutation and adaptation in the living species on this planet.  Moreover, some species cease to exist and others pop up.  But God set it all in motion.  There are several points in the last few billion years where all of sudden, life develops or evolves.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/history_of_the_earth

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_evolutionary_history_of_life

Something triggered those events of new life.  The events actually happened.  That should not be disputed.  We know that God prompted life.  Nothing creates itself.

And this should not come as a surprise.  Gen 1:11 “And God said, ‘Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.’ And it was so.”   Gen 1:20 “And God said, ‘Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.’”  Gen 1:24 “And God said, Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds – livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.’  And it was so.”

Isn’t this what evolution claims?  Why is there a debate?  Why is there conflict?

What about man?  Gen 2:7 provides that God formed man from the dust of the ground.  Sounds pretty much like an evolutionary theory to me.  But I know that God did what He said He did and it’s no theory.  Now, if it took God a nanosecond or two billion years really does not make a difference.  And if God didn’t breathe life into Adam the breath of life (or, in other words, place a spirit inside of man) until God had let Adam evolve into homo sapien from whatever course of evolution God chose, then who am I to question or complain about God’s methods?

Believers should not worry about the teaching of evolution in school classrooms as opposed to nonsensical textbooks about God creating the world in 6 days or 6 thousand years.  We know and teach our children that everything was created by God.  But we should not set our children up for failure or conflict by telling them that the evidence of evolution and the history of our planet is not real.  We need a broader perspective of the power of God and should love those that don’t know Him like we do.   I don’t have to convince unbeleivers that God created everything, but I shouldn’t tell them they are wrong for recognizing the evidence of the history of life on earth.

Everybody talking about revolution, evolution …

Under control

One of the topics that always seems to come back up is the issue of sovereignty.  Is God in control?  I certainly recognize that there have been thousands of books, lectures, sermons on this subject.  But, what do I tell my children?  What do I see revealed in the scripture by the Holy Spirit?

The short answer is — God is in control – but, God is not controlling.

This will end up being a series of blog posts since the subject is too involved for a single discussion.  And I, for myself, need to unpack it piece by piece to make sure I am not inconsistent in approach.  If I find that I am flat out wrong on a given point, I need to know how that impacts the rest of the total view on the subject.

The word “sovereignty” refers to a supreme governing entity.  The word has its origin in the 1300’s.  An anglo-French word meaning “pre-eminence” or the ultimate and final authority.  This notion or concept of preeminence is also where we get the concept of preemption.  This means where a supreme government’s laws, authority, rule come before or above a lesser government’s laws, authority and rule.  Such as when the laws on a given field have been created by a local community or state have been preempted by the laws enacted by the federal government.  Both governments may have something to say about a given subject, but where the laws conflict, the higher authority’s laws preempt the lesser authority’s laws.

Some folks have been taught that God is controlling everything that happens on Earth and in their lives.  Because they have that view, they think that every bad thing, death, disease, ruin, strife, stress, etc., is suffering that God is causing them to have.  This is not my view of God, nor is it what the scripture says about God.

God does intervene is the lives of specific people and events in the bible; just not in every event and in everyone’s life.  God’s plan for the coming of Jesus, His atoning death on the cross and resurrection was going to happen.  And God made sure it came to pass as He intended.  This fact, and these passages from scripture, does not translate into God is controlling everything you do and everything that happens to you.  God gets blame for way too many bad things that happen in this world.  That bugs me.  My bible says that God is love and the giver of good things.  The savior, the healer, the restorer.  The thief come to steal, kill and destroy, but I AM come to give life and give it abundantly.  (Jn 10:10).

I get so tired of hearing people misuse Rom 8:28 to suggest to God causes bad things to happen people.  That is simply not true.  What Paul says is that if you are in Christ, God will cause good and blessing to come from the midst of you bad circumstances.

But there is that word “circumstance.”  It causes problems for some folks who think that nothing is left to chance, that everything, event, decision, person has been carefully orchestrated by God to act out exactly as they do.  Where does this type of view originate?  It comes from (reminder, this is my opinion based on the scripture) a distorted view equating God’s characteristics or attributes of omnipotence and omniscience with being a puppeteer.

God is all-powerful.  He is the creator of everything seen and unseen; everything that has come before our time, or will come after our time.  He just is, or as He puts it, “I Am.”  I don’t think any believer disputes that fact.  God is also all knowing.  The bible says that a sparrow does not fall from a tree limb without God knowing it.  He knows the number of my days and the number of hairs on our heads.  And everything else.  What happens is that because folks see God as all powerful and all knowing, they jump to think he must also be all controlling.  Why?  Is it because folks naturally want to deflect personal responsibility for their actions to someone else.  Such as saying “the devil made me do it” or “well, that’s just the way it is, God is in control.”

Here’s the deal.  God, the sovereign, set up man on this planet as a separate, lower governing authority.  He placed Adam (and Eve) here to have dominion over the earth, to be in control over their own lives.  God wanted relationship with man – that’s why He made us in the first place, for His glory, for His relationship.  When He created us, in His image or reflection, He gave us the ability to make choices.  Should I take the blue pill or the red pill, or take either later, or neither or both.  After Adams’s sin (which we will have to look at another time), this ability to choose the direction of your life hasn’t changed.  God makes it easy for us though by telling us which of our choices is the best one.  I set before you today blessing and cursing, life and death; therefor choose life.  I will never leave you nor forsake you.  I will send you a comforter who will guide you.  From the front cover to the back of your bible, God explains that He is giving you the ability to choose, and then showing you the best choice.  But He is not going to force you or make the choice in your behalf.  That’s how he set it all up, with you in His image to make choices for yourself.

Be informed!

I will have more to say about this in a future post.

 

Acceptable Year

My son asked me what “yobeltime” means.  Good question.

Yobel is Hebrew for Jubilee.  It means something like “a ram’s horn.”  I love reading about Jubilee.  “Yobeltime” is just my way of saying it’s time for us to recognize we are in Jubilee.

After the Garden, Jubilee was first introduced in Leviticus chapter 25.  God instructed Moses to instruct the Israelites about keeping the Sabbath.  Not just resting on the seventh day alone, but also resting the land from sowing and reaping on the seventh year.  And on top of that, after doing seven cycles of seven years, in the 50th year have a year of jubilee.   On the day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, of the 49th year, a Sabbath year, the ram’s horn would be blasted, and the year of jubilee began.  The year of Jubilee is a year for liberty for all.  Everything taken from you must be returned to you.  All debts are redeemed and set aside; everyone is restored to what was theirs.

This is an amazing concept.  Not only was God setting up an economic system based on allegiance to Him instead of greed and debt, he was also providing us an example or shadow of what was to come through the redemption by Jesus.

In Isaiah 61, the year of Jubilee is revisited in a prophecy.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.  To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord (or the year of the Lord’s favor.)

This year of the Lord’s favor, or the acceptable year of the Lord, is the year of Jubilee set forth in Leviticus (Lev. 25:10).

In the book from Luke, the story is told of when Jesus returned to Nazareth after having been baptized in the Jordan followed by fasting in the desert.  The scripture indicates that Jesus began ministering to people as described above upon His return from the desert.  Upon making it to Nazareth he went to the church and read from the book of Isaiah.  After reading the above portion, Luke tells us (ch. 4) that Jesus stated that this prophecy was now fulfilled.

***** Jesus declared the arrival of the acceptable year of the Lord, the year of the Lord’s favor, Jubilee!*****

According to Christ, we have been set free from all bondage.  We have been redeemed.  (Lev. 25:54)  We are no longer enslaved.  Satan has no power over us unless we submit again to his bondage.

I cannot begin to explain the excitement within me that this thought generates.  That is why this is “yobeltime.”  I am free from sin consciousness.  I am restored by Jesus to right standing before God, or “righteousness.”  As my mind is renewed by precepts and instructions from God, I am able to take thoughts captive when I am being deceived by the enemy.   Oh, happy day!

I pray for myself that this amazing gift of jubilee from God sinks into my understanding daily.

Get this – there is nothing that God has not already liberated you from!

Beginnings

I really feel the need to start this journal or blog to say things on my mind.  To my kids.  To friends.  In response to the crazy world we live in and in response to all the bizarre (to me) views and opinons in the social media sphere.  I just can’t bring myself to snipe at folks facebook posts.  But, there are things I want to say in response to what I see being circulated.

In any event, I am going to try and use this platform more for myself than for sharing any great revelations.  I reckon it will be read by others, but it certainly is not created for that purpose alone.

“talking bout the government”

Each of us has an opinion as to what government is, isn’t, should be or shouldn’t be.  When I was teaching a boy scout merit badge class on citizenship, I explored exactly what this really meant.  If each of us were alone, then our individual government would be whatever we chose to do – that is, whatever seemed right in our own eyes.

However, we live with one another in a group.  Consequently, in order to avoid chaos — having multiple governments, each doing exactly as he or she deems right — we come up with ways to live together with rules, guidelines, and common principles.  This is known as “society.”

Some societies allow the strongest to conquer or win them over through force.  These societies will have a government where the strongest gets to decide whatever is right in his or her own eyes, and everyone else has to go along with it. As Mel Brooks once exclaimed, “It’s good to be the King.”

Our current societal idea is that we really don’t want to have a king, but rather want a “common” government.  We call this a democracy.  True democracy is where every person in a society gets to voice their opinion (educated or otherwise) about any government function (regulation).  In the Unites States, the people (gathered and confined at the time by geography) created a government with the Constitution.  This government derives its existence and power and authority from the people of the society.  This government is limited in scope, only having the power, authority to govern, as permitted by the people in the enacting document, the Constitution.

Some power was kept or retained by the people.  Some power was given alternatively by smaller societal groups geographically connected to the individual States.  In our country, what power still belongs to the people, to the smaller governing bodies and to the US, is the subject of much debate.  However, absent constitutional amendment by the people, through the States, the US decides the answer to this question.

The US government we created is what is known as a representative democracy (as opposed to a true democracy).  In other words, instead of everybody voicing (or silencing) their own opinion on every issue of governance, we go through a process of selecting persons to represent our interests in governing us.  We make our decisions on who to choose based upon their qualifications, and whether or not we think they will properly and adequately represent our own individual beliefs and opinions on every issue of governance.  Generally, there is no one to be selected who is perfect – who will have the exact same opinion that another citizen has on every single issue.  Rather, there is a sliding scale that every citizen must determine for themselves, as to whether the available representatives present the best “fit” for the voting citizen.

In our present day, it seems that the most significant political issue is the extent of governance our society wants.  This is also known as “regulation.”  Some people want more regulation on certain societal issues (economic, moral, etc.), while others want less regulation.  For instance, I often hear folks that identify themselves with the Republican Party, say they want less regulation on economic issues; they want to run businesses free from government restrictions and any way they seem fit – whatever is right in their own eyes (“why should the government tell me how to spend my money or what I can do with it?”)  However, these same people want more regulation from the government on what I call the social “moral” issues (“the government must not let same sex couples enter into marriage; the government must control what people do to themselves and each other; I have decided what is right and what is wrong, and the government should stop people from doing what I think is wrong!”)

The folks that identify with the Democratic Party are no different.  They want less regulation from the government of moral issues (what I can do with my body and who I can do it with), but more regulation on economic matters (lets restrict what businesses can and can’t do; lets tell people how they have to spend their own money).

So, what does this all mean?  As long as there are opinions, as long as there are citizens of the US, there will always be differences of opinions among the society on the issue of regulation (how much, how little and what is being regulated).  If there were no differences of opinion, and we were all of the same mind, then we would have no reason for societal government.  There would be no chaos to prevent.

Should we as individual members of the society be angry with others in our society because their opinion is different than ours?  Absolutely not.  That is why we created the government like we did in the first place.  So that issues for which there were a variety of opinions could be resolved without chaos.

Belittling the opinions of others is demeaning to all of us.