Saturday, December 15, 2012

I wasn’t asking pt. 3

A new commandment was also appended by Jesus that strongly coincided with the first commandment.
So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples
John 13:34-35 (NLT)
Does this include any conditions that must be met by someone for us to love them? None at all. Straightforward and concise. But what about those who treat us badly, or are just evil?
You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.
Matt 5:43-45 (NLT)
Jesus made it very clear that we are to emulate the love that God has for us, His creation, however evil or imperfect we are. It’s not within our rights to withhold love from those that we find undeserving. If God were to only show love to those who deserve His love, or those who have earned it, then He wouldn’t love any of us. His love and perfection is so far beyond our understanding, or what we are capable of, it’s ridiculous to even fathom how much more we should love those who we are equal in substance to.
Of course this writing is only a basic set of standards that cover general areas of behavior that God wants us to be attentive toward. There is, however, a theme that runs through every one of the commandments. Love and respect towards God and humanity. Not being consumed with one’s self. Personal sacrifice for the sake of someone else’s well being. Exactly like Jesus is. Everything He did and said was about loving us and the Father.
One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
Mark 12:28-31 (NLT)
Notice He said that both commandments were of equal importance. You can’t love God fully without loving people. And you definitely can’t love others without loving God. I believe that through Jesus Christ, the basis for our relationship with God has been made very simple. The key of course is actually having God within you by receiving His Holy Spirit. This is a very simple concept as well, although it may take some true self reflection in the light of God’s Word to be prepared to receive His Spirit. It takes an absolute and true surrender of our own will, or what many people refer to as “believing in yourself”, and completely trusting God to guide you and help you become what He originally designed and desired you to be. And all of the talents and personality quirks that you alone possess can come to life in the context of serving God Himself instead of your self. One must recognize that they have failed to live as God has desired them to live and ask Him to forgive them for this rebellion. Rebellion can be encompassed in as small a sin as choosing not to talk to someone who is having a bad patch in life, to possibly make them aware of the fact that they are loved, even when they can’t feel love. And once you recognize your own shortcomings and weaknesses in the various manifestations of your personal “sins”, you must then turn in the complete opposite direction, away from that former lifestyle. And ask God to make you a new creation. The one that you were meant to be before you were even formed in your mother’s womb. If you are sincere in your desire to be made new through His Spirit, you will be transformed through forgiveness by the blood of Christ. But sincerity isn’t cheap. It has to come after the recognition of just how far we are from God in our natural state. If you think you’re okay the way you are, you have nothing to be forgiven for. But if you have not committed any sin by your own estimation, then you are equating yourself with God, and you have actually entered the same territory that the devil entered when he attempted to elevate his own status to that of God’s. There can be no forgiveness without something to be forgiven for. And you must also believe that Jesus literally rose from the dead after literally dying, to demonstrate His power over life and death. Without His resurrection, there is no hope of our own resurrection after death. 
If we have told you that Christ has been brought back to life, how can some of you say that coming back from the dead is impossible? If the dead can't be brought back to life, then Christ hasn't come back to life. If Christ hasn't come back to life, our message has no meaning and your faith also has no meaning. In addition, we are obviously witnesses who lied about God because we testified that he brought Christ back to life. But if it's true that the dead don't come back to life, then God didn't bring Christ back to life. Certainly, if the dead don't come back to life, then Christ hasn't come back to life either. If Christ hasn't come back to life, your faith is worthless and sin still has you in its power. Then those who have died as believers in Christ no longer exist. If Christ is our hope in this life only, we deserve more pity than any other people. But now Christ has come back from the dead. He is the very first person of those who have died to come back to life. Since a man (Adam) brought death, a man (Jesus) also brought life back from death. As everyone dies because of Adam, so also everyone will be made alive because of Christ. This will happen to each person in his own turn. Christ is the first, then at his coming, those who belong to him {will be made alive}. Then the end will come. Christ will hand over the kingdom to God the Father as he destroys every ruler, authority, and power.
1 Cor 15:12-24 (GW)
You don’t need to understand the bible’s fine print or doctrine’s to accept Jesus as your Savior and Lord. It is truly based upon faith, which of course you can’t demonstrate by any tangible means or actions. Faith is something that doesn’t rely upon physical evidence of the object that is relied upon to exist. A great example of how this principal can be examined is this. Picture someone in your life that you have experienced a great degree of love and devotion toward. Now prove to me just how much you love them. It can’t be done. You can tell me stories of what you have done for them, or talk to me all day about all of the admirable qualities within that person that make you love them, or describe that feeling inside you, but I still won’t have any true vision of the love that you say you have toward them. Faith is just as intangible as love. But they are also two of the most powerful and influential elements that we can experience in this life. Very ironic in my opinion. Faith is not an object and neither is love. They are actions. They are lifestyles. God is the only One who sees into our hearts. He can’t be fooled by our own self delusion although we can be. There is only one way to heaven. And that is through faith in Christ, and to then live with the hope that we will be with Him in eternity, and as a result learn how to love God and man in this life. Keep in mind that when we individually stand before God after we die, we will not be viewed in regards to how we were treated by others, but how we related to God and other people in spite of how we were treated. You can’t go to heaven as a result of doing good deeds (see my other blog “I’m a good person. Not!” for more details).
I may speak in the languages of humans and of angels. But if I don't have love, I am a loud gong or a clashing cymbal. I may have the gift to speak what God has revealed, and I may understand all mysteries and have all knowledge. I may even have enough faith to move mountains. But if I don't have love, I am nothing. I may even give away all that I have and give up my body to be burned. But if I don't have love, none of these things will help me.  Love is patient. Love is kind. Love isn't jealous. It doesn't sing its own praises. It isn't arrogant. It isn't rude. It doesn't think about itself. It isn't irritable. It doesn't keep track of wrongs. It isn't happy when injustice is done, but it is happy with the truth. Love never stops being patient, never stops believing, never stops hoping, never gives up. Love never comes to an end. There is the gift of speaking what God has revealed, but it will no longer be used. There is the gift of speaking in other languages, but it will stop by itself. There is the gift of knowledge, but it will no longer be used. Our knowledge is incomplete and our ability to speak what God has revealed is incomplete. But when what is complete comes, then what is incomplete will no longer be used. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, thought like a child, and reasoned like a child. When I became an adult, I no longer used childish ways. Now we see a blurred image in a mirror. Then we will see very clearly. Now my knowledge is incomplete. Then I will have complete knowledge as God has complete knowledge of me. So these three things remain: faith, hope, and love. But the best one of these is love.
1 Cor 13:1-13 (GW)

Friday, November 16, 2012

I wasn’t asking pt. 2

Of course you may be one of those intellectual giants that says “There is no God!”. 
God says regarding this phenomenon:
Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good!
Psalms 14:1 (NLT)
The definition of fool is, by the way:
One who is lacking in reason, or the common powers of understanding; an idiot; an imbecile
That means that the intellectual atheists in the world don’t have “reason, or the common powers of understanding”. Without even getting into the scientific complexities or biological components that are inherently involved in our universe and all that is contained within it, it really does take an idiot to be able to convince themselves that there is no intelligence behind all of the beauty and fascination in this world, even if it is corrupted. Do you sometimes see this beauty? Imagine how beautiful the will and mind that brought this beauty into reality are.
Our knowledge is incomplete and our ability to speak what God has revealed is incomplete. But when what is complete comes, then what is incomplete will no longer be used. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, thought like a child, and reasoned like a child. When I became an adult, I no longer used childish ways. Now we see a blurred image in a mirror. Then we will see very clearly. Now my knowledge is incomplete. Then I will have complete knowledge as God has complete knowledge of me.
1 Cor 13:9-12 (GW)
At this time we have an incredibly limited, obscured view of who God is through His creation, which once again has been tainted by our own sin. Many throughout history have been foolish enough to actually ignore the Creator Himself and chose to worship the creation, even though God’s creation is infinitely inferior. They are abusing the inbred instinct to worship their Creator, by diverting their own attention to their surroundings instead, or even creating their own lifeless gods.
While claiming to be wise, they became fools. They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for statues that looked like mortal humans, birds, animals, and snakes. For this reason God allowed their lusts to control them.
Romans 1:22-24 (GW)
God is referred to in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament by many names. Each name has a specific meaning, or represents a specific aspect of God. This points out to us just how diverse God is, and how many roles He fills in regards to his creation. Many of the titles or names refer to the human aspects of Jesus (Son of Man, Offspring of David), while some point to his Godhood (Lord of All, Almighty). There is nothing within creation that falls outside of God. He is the reason behind everything. And even what is evil was originally created by God, albeit lacking the qualities that came about as a result of our sin.
The main theme of this writing is actually regarding what God expects from us, if He is the one who brought all of Creation into reality. He is the ultimate authority, so what are His rules? The place to start is actually a very well known component of the bible. And as unfamiliar as most people are with the details, we have surely heard of the Ten Commandments. But how many people can even name five of them, much less all ten? I find this to be a sad testimony of where we are as a people. Many professing Christians can’t even name all ten. Yet we claim to “know God”. How can you know something or someone if you don’t know anything about that particular subject? To me, it is perfectly sensible to want to know what our Creator expects from us and who He is.
You must not have any other god but me. 
Deut 5:7 (NLT)
Straight forward, but very selectively interpreted. Clearly the word “god” does not only refer to a traditional deity or religious figure. It is anything that you spend your time, money, energy and thought on. This of course, if dissected within our own lives, makes it clear that we “worship” multiple things above God. We are told that we should love God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength.

You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind, or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. 
Deut 5:8 (NLT)
An idol also does not have to be in the form of a statue or image. For instance “American Idol” is a reference to someone who is idolized by their fans, or fanatics. We can turn anything into an idol. Of course it can be practiced in a literal form as well. It is easy for those of us in developed countries to take this form of idolatry for granted. But elsewhere in the world many people actually do worship idols, or view certain objects, animals, or humans as divine, or a god. We find throughout the Old as well as the New Testament instances of idol worship, even within advanced civilizations (Rome, Babylon). We even find in the book of Revelation, that in the end of our time here, the entire world will worship the “beast”, or Antichrist. He will demand it, and through his charisma, and apparent supernatural powers, will receive it. Many will know who he is and the consequences of worshipping him and will therefore refuse. They will also be killed as a result.

You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name. 
Deut 5:11 (NLT)
This commandment is based on respect toward God. It is very disrespectful for anyone to use God’s name in any way that has nothing to do with who He is. How would you like it if someone used your name as a cuss word, or an exclamation of anger?

Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. 
Deut 5:12 (NLT)
Originally the Sabbath was on Saturday. But it also refers to a general day of rest. Jesus said that man is not created for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for men. What happens if we work every day of the week, without taking a day off? We become stressed out, tired, moody, irritable, and worst of all, distracted from God. The Christians began observing Sunday as their own traditional day of rest to devote their time to communal worship and studying the word of God. It symbolizes the resurrection of Jesus taking place on a Sunday, and as a result the gift of eternal life through Him to us. 

Honor your father and mother, as the Lord your God commanded you. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
 Deut 5:16 (NLT)
This might seem very difficult for those of us who have been brought up in less than ideal circumstances, but we are told that if we follow this commandment, it will only be to our advantage. This is the first commandment with a promise from God.

You must not murder. 
Deut 5:17 (NLT)
We may find this to be a no brainer, but wait! Jesus also told us that if we attack someone verbally, it is no different than sticking a screwdriver in their neck. Character assassination and gossip are also a form of murdering someone.

You must not commit adultery 
Deut 5:18 (NLT)
If it wasn’t for the fine print, most of us could skate right past this one. But what most of us are ignorant of is what God views as adultery. It’s not only the act of a married person being involved in any form of sexual activity with any other person that they are not married to, but it applies to any sexual activity involving people who are not married to each other. This of course completely changes the scope of the commandment. In other words, consensual sex between an unmarried man and woman, woman and woman, man and man …. It’s all the same to God. And on top of this, Jesus said that if we look at someone that we are not married to, and picture them naked, or imagine what they would be like in bed, we are then committing adultery as well! Life’s rough huh?

You must not steal 
Deut 5:19 (NLT)
Shoplifting is included. And maybe borrowing things from your friends or family and not returning them too.

You must not testify falsely against your neighbor 
Deut 5:20 (NLT)
I believe that the meaning of this commandment goes beyond testifying in court that your next door neighbor did something that they didn’t actually do. Testifying falsely just means saying something that is not true. And your neighbor just means anyone in your general vicinity. Therefore this would bring us to the conclusion that we are not supposed to say things that are not true about anyone else. Lying. This includes gossip, or passing on rumors as well.

You must not covet your neighbor’s wife. You must not covet your neighbor’s house or land, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor 
Deut 5:21 (NLT)
Covet is just one of those bible words that we don’t commonly use anymore, but the actual meaning of the word is “desire” or “lust after”. Envying someone else for anything that is theirs falls into this category. But I believe that we can also covet someone else’s talent, skills, looks, or circumstances. We are not to grumble when someone else is successful. God wants us to be content in who we are and what we have. If you feel like God is giving you less than you deserve, it’s very questionable that you know Him well.

Friday, October 19, 2012

I wasn’t asking pt. 1

If there is a God, just how do you think He fits into our reality? What role do you believe He plays in the lives of humans here on earth? Is He a glorified babysitter? Or a magic genie meant to grant the wishes of the people? How would God describe Himself in relation to who we are? And what position would He see Himself filling? This is actually a preface to the actual substance of what I am going to cover in this writing. 
If we are to look to the Creation account and the very first words thereof, we read:
In the beginning God…
Gen 1:1 (NKJV)
This establishes right away that before anything else existed, God existed independently from His creation. Where did He begin? He didn’t. Where does He end? He won’t. In the gospel of John, we are also told:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.
John 1:1-3 (NKJV)
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14 (NKJV)
Clearly the “Word” is a reference to Jesus. Paul wrote:
…God who created all things through Jesus Christ
Eph 3:9 (NKJV)
Jesus was with God the Father before the beginning. Just to clarify, I don’t understand how that works either, but that is only because my understanding (as well as yours) is extremely limited regarding most subjects, especially the things of God. You may believe that your comprehension is more advanced than that of most, but I ask you a simple question. We can see the effects of as well as feel the wind. But we cannot actually see it. And I can guarantee you that no man has ever been able to go outside of mere theory regarding the origin or nature of wind. Where do the components that make the wind happen come from? Prove it if you think you can. The problem with theory is that it is just that. Theoretical.  A person can propose a theory for almost any natural occurrence as long as there is no scientific proof to contradict that particular theory. Unless of course we propose the theory that the bible presents us with absolute truth. Secular science will not accept any concept that involves God. But renowned atheist and author Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion) isn’t above accepting the theory that aliens (that’s what he said. Aliens) actually created life on the planet! This is evidence that clearly demonstrates how willing the world is to accept any concept that bars God from being the actual meaning of life. We must keep in mind that we are only demonstrating a very small percentage of what we were created to be. And history shows that we are obviously not evolving toward a more enlightened state of mind. In fact, regarding our behavior, history shows that we are drawn to finding more comprehensive ways to be cruel toward our fellow humans. Massive weapons of destruction and means of chemical and biological warfare have risen within the last 100 years that by far leave past means of destruction in the dust. And the amount of violence on an individual scale worldwide is also steadily increasing. Divorce, scandal, suicide. All of these have suffered an increase in the recent past. It all began with one man, Adam. His initial rebellion against what God had told him not to do, has cursed every man and woman since then. Until Jesus. He was the only sinless man to exist in our history and will remain so until this world passes away. The sin that is implanted within each of us at birth is what prevents us from living up to our true potential.  God emphasizes His superiority to us throughout the bible, to help us keep things in perspective. The words “I am the Lord” appear in 163 different verses in the bible (NKJV). He says this to us to let us know that just because we choose to worship the devil, or Allah, or a golden calf, or ourselves, He will remain the all powerful Creator of everything, including anything we may choose to worship. I will use an analogy here to demonstrate how God remains who He is completely independent of our perspective of Him. 
Let’s assume that you begin working for a certain business. Overall you are content with your position, pay and surroundings. The one thing that you are not pleased with is the owner and manager of the company. You do not like him. You don’t respect him. You don’t believe that he is proficient at his job or knowledgeable regarding the company. You think he is unfair and expects too much from you, even though you were made aware of what he expected from you before you took the job. As a result of your lack of regard toward his authority, you begin to demonstrate how you feel by not following the policies of the company. You also begin to miss days when you do not feel like working and leave early without permission. You also don’t show up for required staff meetings. Your performance continues to suffer until you are not even completing all of your assigned duties. You receive several verbal and written warnings, but you blow them all off, assuming that you are in the right. And then one day…
You know how the story ends. You are terminated. And as sincere as you are when you air your grievances, or state your case, this will not affect the fact that the owner of the company is still the ultimate authority within the structure of the company. Why? Because that is the way it is. It is his company to do with what he wants to do regardless of who likes him and who doesn’t. That is reality. He built the company therefore he can control every aspect of it. Do you see the parallel? The manager establishes the rules for the employees. Yes they can choose to disobey, but at some point their rebellion will catch up with them. How much more will this be enacted in our relationship with God in His created world as His created beings? I get the feeling that when Satan rebelled against God, he initially believed he would somehow end up victorious in his quest for self promotion. How’s that working out for you slick?