The third day he rose again from the dead

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.

1 Corinthians 15:3–6, ESV

Before I continue with today’s blog, I would like to apologize for failing to write at my normal pace recently. Life changes have interfered with my production. My calling to pastor a church will stop (temporarily?) at the end of October. As of November 1, I will be retired, so, I am hoping to do more writing then.

Today, I learned a new term for my identity. Surely, I am way behind the times, but that word is “cisgender.” I always thought I was male, but the liberal segment of our society seemed to need to call me cisgender because they no longer use the only two genders that have ever existed, male and female. I had to look cisgender up and found this definition:

Cisgender (sometimes cissexual, often abbreviated to simply cis) is a term for people whose gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth[1] For example, someone who identifies as a woman and was assigned female at birth is a cisgender woman. The term cisgender is the opposite of the word transgender.[2][3]

https://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/cisgender
  1. ^ “Definition of Cisgender”http://www.merriam-webster.com. Retrieved October 22, 2020.
  2. a b Schilt, Kristen; Westbrook, Laurel (August 2009). “Doing Gender, Doing Heteronormativity: ‘Gender Normals,’Transgender People, and the Social Maintenance of Heterosexuality”. Gender & Society23 (4): 440–464 [461].doi:10.1177/0891243209340034. S2CID 145354177.
  3. ^ Blank, Paula. “Will the Word “Cisgender” Ever Go Mainstream?”The Atlantic. Retrieved May 13, 2018.

I would like to thank those of the nominal members of society for ensuring I cannot be confused with those who are transgender. I was worried for a moment. It is interesting, though, that those who claim to be transgender are allowed to adopt their own moniker while finding that my ordained gender can no longer be called male. I kind of like being male. And I love that my wife is female. Things have worked well that way, at least for the past 40 years.

Things have truly been turned on their heads in the past few years. Government has always been problematic as few Presidents, Congress men and women, and Senators have ignored the safeguards of the Constitution. Those who wrote this historic document all agreed that there was no protection in it from unscrupulous politicians who seek to control the populous rather than be controlled by them. Please don’t think I am referring only to President Biden, for there are many names that should be added to a long list of these men. Unfortunately, Biden has become the pinnacle of our loss of liberty and enslavement to irrational socialists. We only have ourselves to blame.

Jesus said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10, ESV). Likewise, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45, ESV) I would suggest that any politician who does not govern as Christ came to serve, are immoral leaders deserving of judgment. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Romans 1:18, ESV)

How can we survive a society that longs to be enslaved by socialism, that loves handing their children over to Moloch, that changes the very meaning of words so they become the opposite of sense? The obvious way for me is to turn our lives over to the King of all creation and obey all that we are taught in the Scriptures. This, however, can have many meanings, so let me suggest one. Those who are true to Christ know in the deepest recesses of their hearts that on the third day following his burial, Jesus rose from the dead.

I know that churches celebrate this truth on Easter. Yet, the resurrection is far more than a one-day-a-year celebration. As with all of God’s truth, the resurrection must transform us every day. Think about it. What does the resurrection of Christ mean?

First, Christ Jesus was raised from the dead to demonstrate that his work on the cross fulfilled God’s purposes. His sacrifice was accepted by the Father as payment for sin. Second, Jesus’ resurrection provides that those who are his are reconciled to the Father. Third, Jesus’ resurrection was new life. Jesus was different from before. He was also the same, but he now had accomplished his mission of seeking and saving his lost sheep. Fourth, and most importantly for us, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ became our death and new birth in him.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV

Our resurrection is both in the present and in the future. Much of what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15 has to do with this final resurrection when the trumpet shall sound, the dead in Christ shall be raise, and the living in Christ shall be translated. Corruptible become incorruptible. Assuredly, this is the day we most look forward to. This is our hope, our everlasting life, our perfect and continual offering of service to God our Father. It is when we are adorned in white as the Bride of Christ and join him in the wedding feast. O, how we long for that day!

“For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.”

1 Corinthians 15:52–56, ESV

But today is not that day. And Paul quickly reminds us that there is much to do before that day comes: “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58, ESV)

Man’s world cannot stand against that no matter how oppressive or how silly. Cisgender and transgender are humanity’s words. Male and Female are God’s Word. There is no question in my mind that humanity’s words will follow the way of humanity’s tower of Babel. We are experiencing the confusion of language even now. God’s answer to those he has called his children is to stand firm and not be moved by the culture in which we live. We are to always flourish doing the Lord’s work. Because, our labor in the Lord is empty. We are victorious in Christ and we are to live as victors even though we may not see immediate success. For the righteous shall live by faith.

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He descended into Hell

There is a universal acceptance of the above statement as part of the Apostles’ Creed. Interpretation of what it means that the crucified Christ descended into hell is far from universally understood. There are many people who can’t comprehend that Christ descended into hell.

The first part of the confusion is our understanding of hell. The word hell today is almost exclusively understood as the place of eternal judgment. This is not at all biblical. The Greek word that was used in the Creed is katōtatos. In Latin it is inferna. Both words come from Ephesians 4.

Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?

Ephesians 4:8–9, ESV

The translation “lower regions” captures the thought well. A corresponding word in the New Testament is Hades. This is not a place of judgment or punishment. It is the place, in Jewish thought of the time, where those who died went to await whatever comes next. For Paul, Jesus was crucified and was truly dead. For him, this was demonstrated by the fact that he, like all others, descended into Hades.

But the descent of Christ is not the crucial point. He had to descend in order to “ascend on high.” Furthermore, the ascent of Christ was the time that “he led a host of captives,” those who had died and gone to Hades but had lived by faith and were thus declared righteous. Why could they not have ascended on their own? Because Christ Jesus had not yet paid the penalty for their sin. In Romans 5, Paul makes very clear that we are justified not only by Christ’s blood (his death) but also by his life (his resurrection).

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 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.

Romans 5:6–10, ESV

The conclusion I draw, then, is that those who die in Christ now join those who were led forth from Hades awaiting the final resurrection. That is the resurrection from corruptible to incorruptible (1 Corinthians 15). The gospel hymn by J. Wilbur Chapman puts it altogether in the chorus:

"Living, He loved me; 
Dying, He saved me; 
Buried, He carried my sins far away;
Rising, He justified freely forever;
One day He's coming - O glorious day!

Thus, as Paul says in Ephesians, Jesus’ descent into Hades is a significant event for anyone who would believe. Descending to Hades links the death of Christ with his resurrection, a link that is not made any other way. It is a link from forgiveness to reconciliation, both of which are parts of our salvation in Christ.

Just to add a personal thought. I have attended many schools in training for the ministry. My journey has covered many decades. Upon reflection, having taken many courses on evangelism, none of them have taught the gospel message that is the “power of God unto salvation,” (Romans 1:18). There has been a lot of methodology, philosophy, analyzation, but I guess it was just assumed that we all knew what salvation was about. In the old days, we were given method books, such as Evangelism Explosion, or tracts like “The Roman Road.” Later it became church transformation to become “seeker sensitive,” and getting to know “Unchurched Harry or Mary.” Then there came the attempt to help people find their purpose.

However, though many of these systems brought people into the church, they really did nothing to “make disciples, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded,” (Matthew 28). Looking back on my years in ministry, I know there have been lives touched, comforted, encouraged, both believer and unbeliever. Though I cannot see it now, I cannot say that I have led anyone into a deeper desire to study God’s Word and to make obedience to it the integral part of their life. I think that the Western Church has descended into the lower parts of the faith and gotten quite comfortable there.

I have been told after a service, “Good sermon, Pastor.” I don’t know in what way it was judged to be good. Church on Sunday morning has become just one of many things to do, but probably not as important as youth soccer of professional football. Please don’t misunderstand me. For me, to miss church on Sunday morning is like fasting for a week. I experience emptiness an a longing for fellowship with Christ that can only be found in the gathering of his body. On-line church doesn’t cut it either. It is just another way to fit church into our schedule which by definition makes church a secondary value.

This month I am retiring from pastoring. I can’t say that I am retiring from ministry. God help me, that shall never end. But I leave longing for a place where the music instructs, challenges, chastises, and laments. I love “rock” music. But church music has become what I used to call elevator music. It is bland, unoffensive, and many times theologically misleading if not heretical. Church is often designed to be entertaining, though if that word is used to describe it one might well find themselves outside the church rather than in it.

I long for a richer understanding of the sacraments, one that restores their sacred nature and redeems them from the realm of that which is optional. I am not claiming any particular theological position, though I would love that discussion. I am saying that they have lost their role as the centerpiece of worship. I know that there are traditions that continue to take the Supper weekly, but I believe they are significantly out numbered by those that think once a month is good enough, or those that do it occasionally or not at all. What is more central to the gospel than the Eucharist?

In short, our world is in serious trouble. I believe it is because we have replaced the presence of God, the washing of the Word, and the power of the Spirit with our own desires and pleasures. I have seen individuals and families that have gotten bored of the same old programs, who cannot understand why their young men and women can’t stand hanging around a service that is meaningless to them because they have always had their own place to go during that time instead of sitting with mom and dad in those padded seats that have replaced old fashioned pews.

And example of that which I am speaking is the ease with which church after church closed their doors on the word of a non-elected bully of a doctor who helped create the disease that has us all doing unnatural things for a long time now. “But I get a lot out of our on-line worship and the messages.” Exactly! You get but you do not give and the very definition of worship is gathering as Christ’s body giving all glory to God in the highest.

My rant began with the failure of knowing, teaching, focusing, and living the gospel of Jesus Christ. Never was I ever told that the gospel is faithfully laid out for us and summarized in the words of the Apostles’ Creed. But there it is. And in the end, it has been no one’s fault but my own, for I became happy reading those books that confirmed what I believed, the books that made me feel warm and fuzzy, the books that made no challenging expectations on my time or mental effort. God forgive me for being the kind of Christian I so hate, a lazy Christian. I hate the lazy Christian not because I hate any individual person, except the laziest of all, me.

Thank God that he descended into hell in order to lift me up. Lord, can’t you lift me a bit more quickly?

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…was crucified, dead and buried…

    I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth
    And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord
    Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary
    Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried; He descended into hell
    The third day he rose again from the dead
    He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty
    From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead
    I believe in the Holy Ghost
    I believe a holy catholic church; the communion of saints
    The forgiveness of sins
    The resurrection of the body
    And the life everlasting. Amen. [1]

The facts of Christ’s crucifixion are essential to Christian belief. “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried…” (1 Corinthians 15:1–4, ESV) I am not aware of any dispute regarding Jesus’ crucifixion. Even those who deny that Jesus was God, who claim that he was historically only a man, and maybe a Rabbi, generally will accept that he was crucified.

Most scholars in the third quest for the historical Jesus consider the crucifixion indisputable, as do Bart Ehrman, John Dominic Crossan and James Dunn. Although scholars agree on the historicity of the crucifixion, they differ on the reason and context for it, e.g. both E. P. Sanders and Paula Fredriksen support the historicity of the crucifixion, but contend that Jesus did not foretell his own crucifixion, and that his prediction of the crucifixion is a Christian story. Géza Vermes also views the crucifixion as a historical event but believes this was due to Jesus’ challenging of Roman authority. On the other hand, Maurice Casey and John P. Meier state that Jesus did predict his death, and this actually strengthened his followers’ belief in his Resurrection.

https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Historical_Jesus

As the above quote would indicate, the dispute about the crucifixion surrounds the historical context and, more importantly, the supernatural aspect of Jesus predicting it. Yet Paul states clearly that the death of Christ was “according to the Scriptures.” The Biblical test is the only one that really matters, unless we want to deny the inspiration of Scripture. (That is one of the amazing supernatural aspects to the Word of God. All Scripture is in harmony and few things are stated that are not repeated throughout.)

Peter is one who clearly states that Christ Jesus predicted his death and that the prophets knew of it by the Holy Spirit. “Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.” (1 Peter 1:10–12, ESV)

Most would agree that the predictions of the death (and resurrection) of Christ throughout the Old Testament are plentiful. Isaiah 53 is a good example.

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:3–6, ESV

The death of the Savior was predicted even within the curse from the original fall of Adam and Eve.

The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

Genesis 3:14–15, ESV

If you rule out the opinions of those who “search for the Historical Jesus,” I am unaware of any Biblical scholar who denies that Jesus was innocent yet crucified, that his crucifixion was the payment required by God’s justice for the forgiveness of sins, and that this is a real act in history with eternal and historical significance.

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation [2] by his blood, to be received by faith.

Romans 3:21–25, ESV

Why does the creed include he was dead and buried to crucified? I can suggest two reasons. First, over time, there have developed theories that Jesus did not die, but merely fainted or lost consciousness. Such theories are explanations for the resurrection which being a supernatural event cannot be historical as well.

Thus grew and thus died the theory of the rupture of the heart of Jesus. It is only an evidence that there is no proof in
the hands of the Christians that Jesus died on the cross, and like the drowning man they catch at every straw. But the proof is now complete that Jesus did not die upon the cross, and the tomb at Khan Yar is a living witness of this fact, the truth of which would soon be seen by the world.

The ‘Rupture of the Heart’ Theory of the Death of Jesus, The Review of Religions, May 1905, p. 191.

If you are interested, there are more recent articles that are similar here, here, and here. All of these articles come from the same source. However, they are representative of the overall theory that Jesus did not die on the cross. Yet, each one uses science as a credible proof of their point and they are still speculative at best. The creed takes into account the nature of human sin and it does not allow for theory. Jesus died according to all four gospels and all remaining New Testament writings.

Second, the strongest evidence for the death of Jesus is that he was buried. Mark wrote about the event this way, “And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.” (Mark 15:42–47, ESV)

Even before people thought to argue that Jesus did not die, Mark answers their objection. “Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died.” Those who were crucified with Jesus had their legs broken to hasten the process. As long as someone on the cross still lived, the Roman guards had to stay so that no one could come and save them. Instead of breaking Jesus legs, they thrust a spear in his side. This too was to speed up his death. Speculation that following all of the physical suffering Jesus experienced before the cross did not significantly effect his death, and that the spear thrust itself did not hasten it is foolishness. If he did not die, then there is no Christianity, and I can’t help but wonder if this is the motivation for the argument.

We must note that the creed is not interested in speculation. It is doctrine, the teaching of the Christian Church from the beginning. It is a concise statement telling us what we must believe to be accounted members of the Way. It is truth physiologically and historically with enough evidence to verify it. Paul makes sure that we know there were many witnesses to the resurrected Jesus, and we are told that the disciple Thomas had his doubts answered by touching his wounds. The problem is not evidence, though. It is interpretation, and interpretation of something always begins with what the interpreter brings of his or her self.

The beginning of any belief system is one’s world view. Modern science is rooted in materialism. Modern education is a matter of indoctrination. All of the ideas of mankind begin either with God or no god. One is truth and the other is not. There are no options in-between, no compromises to be made. I believe…

[1] Historic Creeds and Confessions, electronic ed., (Oak Harbor: Lexham Press, 1997).

[2] PROPITIATION, n. propisia´shon. [Fr.; from propitiate.] The act of appeasing wrath and conciliating the favor of an offended person; the act of making propitious. In theology, the atonement or atoning sacrifice offered to God to assuage his wrath and render him propitious to sinners. Christ is the propitiation for the sins of men. Rom. 3. 1 John 2. Noah Webster, Noah Webster’s first edition of An American dictionary of the English language., 2006.

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It Was the Worst of Times

I just finished a post on Pontius Pilate. While writing, I could not get the images of the terror in Afghanistan right now.

It is not unusual for people to think they are living in the worst of times. In 18th Century France, people were done with royalty and wanted to rule themselves. Their desire for a better government resulted in no government. Whatever order they wanted to eradicate, they won chaos. Charles Dickens likened it to worse times:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

Charles Dickens, introduction to his novel, A Tale of Two Cities.

During my short lifetime, there have been many times said to be the worst. The execution of President John F. Kenedy, the Vietnam “war,” the gas shortage of the 1970s, the Iraqui war, the war in Afghanistan, just to name a few. Many of the military actions following the War to End All Wars, then its brother, World War II, have been highly controversial. The public was divided between those who supported the decisions of the politicians and those who believed they were unnecessary at best and criminal at worst.

I am not interested in either explaining history or rewriting it. However, the most recent “war” is the 20 years American troops have been in Afghanistan is a tragic repeat of history. Our government officials did not know how to end the Vietnam war, but they felt the opposition to it by Americans. So, it was determined to sacrifice territory to the North Koreans. This was not done by negotiating some form of transition. It was accomplished by pulling out suddenly. The images on the news broadcasts were tragic. People died trying to get on helicopters. More people suffered by being left behind. And the South Koreans in Saigon were targets of the enemy.

Recently, the foolishness, or maybe arrogance of our current President repeated the Vietnam horror of Richard Nixon. Granted, he did not make this decision on his own. He had plenty of advisors. But, for whatever reason, he did not choose to listen to those who remembered Saigon, and despite telling the American public that pulling our military out of Afghanistan would be transitional, planned, and take some time. The result is there was no transition, there was no plan, and it happened over hours, not days or months.

We pulled out so fast, there was no longer the minimal support provided to the Afghanistan military, and it crumbled along with the dreams and hopes of freedom promised by the United States. We pulled out so fast that we left all kinds of military property, and gave it to America’s worst enemy since the 9-11 attack on American soil. We pulled out so fast that the Afghani people became terrified of what was to come and they would do anything to find a way out. For the life of me, I cannot comprehend why the Taliban wants to keep the people who do not want to stay.

Once again, the images on the media covering the situation honestly are just as tragic as Saigon. We pulled out not considering those Americans left behind. We pulled out not thinking about those Afghanis who would suffer more than you or I have ever suffered. Why hand over people, weapons, and technology to the Taliban? Why lie about it to the American people? Why, after this catastrophe, would anyone try to paint this as a victory for the United States. Those men and women of the U.S. military who died in Afghanistan essentially died for nothing. All we fought for ended in nothing. Just like Vietnam.

There have been politicians I didn’t like. But none has made me embarrassed to be an American until now. This is not the worst time in human history. But it is a very dark time. Once again, I am reminded to turn to my true leader, my King, who is the light of the world.

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He Suffered Under Pontius Pilate

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Luke 3:1–3, ESV

Luke, in his gospel, makes the first mention of Pontius Pilate in all of the four gospels. Luke was detail-oriented in all of his writings. All of the gospels place Jesus within historical contexts, but Luke gives us specificity that is easy for us to overlook. I cannot deny that I have read the above passage many times and almost glossed over the names written. However, if we take all of Scripture seriously if all of it is inspired, then to overlook the details is a mistake. This is not to say that every verse in the Bible presents some deep doctrinal significance. The popular use of proof-texting is an example of such a mistake.

Another example is the failure of those who do not study the whole Word of God. Again, I admit that I have avoided whole books, especially in preaching, that are considered either boring or inappropriate. Leviticus and the Song of Solomon come to mind. The mindset is to focus on the “important” books, like Romans, Ephesians, or in the past few decades, the Revelation of Jesus Christ. It takes a deliberate effort to seek the truth on every page of the Scriptures.

So, I found this mention of Pilate and others at the beginning of John’s ministry preparing the way of Christ. Yes, it gives us a good indication of the time John began preaching repentance for sins. However, it also presents the main players in the life, ministry, trial, and death of Jesus. I also find it intriguing that this group of Roman rulers is listed in the context of John proclaiming repentance. There are probably no better examples of sinners in need of the humility of penitence and forgiveness than these. And, they include Jew and Gentile alike.

Luke points to one of these men later in the gospel displaying the depravity of sin.

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.’”

Luke 13:1–5, ESV

Joel McDurmon writes of this passage, “

The people then immediately prove that they have eyes but see not, and ears but hear not. They do this by pretending they have indeed discerned the times: “There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices” (Luke 13:1). These people were up on current events. They knew the times! They knew that the evil Roman Empire was murdering innocent Jews—and defiling their religious rituals, too! (McDurmon, Joel. Jesus v. Jerusalem: A Commentary on Luke 9:51–20:26, Jesus’ Lawsuit Against Israel. Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2011, p. 38.)

What he does with this passage is first and foremost to place it within the previous context when Jesus tells of his coming in the final judgment (the ending of the Old Covenant making way for the new. This was accomplished in 70 A.D.). Jesus is not simply replying to the desecration of the Jews and their religious rites. What he does is to compare those around him to the Galilean sinners. Jesus focuses on the need for all to repent, or they too will perish. In the end, we know Pilate as a man without a conscience.

We can begin to see why the Creed mentions Christ’s suffering under Pontius Pilate instead of his torment by the Jewish leaders. All of the gospel writers make clear that the crucifixion lies at the Jew’s feet. But they could not kill Jesus. They needed the support of the Roman governor. In addition, Pilate finds no guilt in Jesus worthy of death. What kind of leader is Pilate to condemn Christ to beatings, torture, mockery, and crucifixion despite his innocence? He was the man at the right place in the right time.

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law…”

Galatians 4:4, ESV

Such is the work of God. He uses whatever means he chooses to accomplish his purpose. He also prepares those through whom he uses to produce his design. Like many others before him and even more after him, Pontius Pilate is a key link in the chain that fulfills God’s salvation of his people. That does not mitigate Pilate’s general depravity or his particular sins. Throughout Scripture, when God utilizes sinners to bring judgment, they are also judged by God. With one interesting exception. God used the zeal of Saul to disperse those in the church at Jerusalem into the world. However, he then calls Paul to salvation and has him take the gospel to the Gentiles. God can curse, and God can bless. Everyone deserves God’s judgment for their sin. But some are called from their bondage to sin to be freed and cleansed by the one who died on the cross.

The gospel is precisely this good news. How can we keep silent?

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I Believe Jesus Was Born of the Virgin Mary

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:26–38, ESV

The virgin birth has been one of the highly disputed doctrines of orthodox Christianity. The spectrum of dispute is wide, from those who deny the teaching to those who have carried it all too far. They have made Mary divine, in a sense, and she becomes a mediator between man and Christ. The announcement from the passage above has become, in the Roman tradition, a prayer to Mary:

Hail Mary, full of grace,  
The Lord is with you.  
Blessed are you among women,  
and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.    

Holy Mary, mother of God,  
Pray for us sinners,  
now and in the hour of our death.  
Amen.

One of the most famous versions of the Ave Maria was composed by Franz Schubert. Classical in style, few have not heard its melodious verses.

Ave Maria! Maiden mild!
Listen to a maiden's prayer!
Thou canst hear though from the wild;
Thou canst save amid despair.
Safe may we sleep beneath thy care,
Though banish'd, outcast and reviled –
Maiden! hear a maiden's prayer;
Mother, hear a suppliant child!
Ave Maria

Ave Maria! undefiled!
The flinty couch we now must share
Shall seem this down of eider piled,
If thy protection hover there.
The murky cavern's heavy air
Shall breathe of balm if thou hast smiled;
Then, Maiden! hear a maiden's prayer,
Mother, list a suppliant child!
Ave Maria!

Ave Maria! stainless styled.
Foul demons of the earth and air,
From this their wonted haunt exiled,
Shall flee before thy presence fair.
We bow us to our lot of care,
Beneath thy guidance reconciled;
Hear for a maid a maiden's prayer,
And for a father hear a child!
Ave Maria...

You can listen here.

Does Mary deserve such treatment? Yes, and No. Luke specifically quotes Gabriel who says to Mary, “You have found favor with God.” It is important, though, that Mary does not claim to have deserved such favor. Neither does Gabriel suggest that God is blessing her for her good heart, or her good works. This is pure grace and clear election. The birth of our Savior was repeatedly prophesied from the fall of man. That Mary was chosen to be the vessel for the fulfillment of the promise had not been revealed. Even Isaiah 7:14 does not provide a hint. The closest we have is the very first promise of a Savior in Genesis. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15, ESV) In this sense, Mary is the offspring of the woman through whom sin entered the world. This is not a good recommendation for the work she will perform, but it is a prerequisite.

So, the two extremes within the church should be checked. Protestants should not shy away from the honor with which God graced Mary. Catholics should stop praying to her and making her a mediator. There is only ONE: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” (1 Timothy 2:5, ESV) There is no justification for elevating her beyond God’s blessing or denying her an honor distinct from other women.

The Creed comes straight to the point, “I believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord, who was born of the virgin Mary…” Nothing more and nothing less.

It appears to me that faith is quite simple, but we make it far more complicated than it has to be. “You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (Matthew 23:24, ESV) Can we really claim to be better than the Pharisees? We often don’t want to believe what God has said without knowing how such a thing can be possible. We want to know why God chooses to do something. What was going on in the mind of God? Oh, the sin of testing God and his Word. Seeking greater understanding is good. However, going beyond what God has revealed is not. If God wanted us to know more, he would have said more.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary. Now if we want to know how a virgin could conceive without mating with a man, the phrase just before says that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Ghost. This is essential doctrine. It goes to the heart of the two natures of Christ Jesus clearly revealed in the Gospels.

Jesus said that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. (Matthew 19:24) We recognize the material wealth of the young man to who Jesus is speaking. But is it possible that there may be other kinds of wealth that can have the same effect? To suggest just one, how about the wealth of education and knowledge? Even the above saying of Christ has been picked apart by so called scholars so that the eye of the needle does not mean the eye of a needle. Supposed scholarship has denied the authorship of many portions of the Bible. It has convoluted the historical Jesus. It has said that virgin does not mean virgin. Scholarship tends to ask questions then seek evidence to confirm their presupposition.

True scholarship is good. Scholarship in this sense means to collect all of the evidence possible and let it speak. There is a reason theology has been called the Queen of the Sciences. Theology combines the disciplines of all studies and finds what is truth or not using the foundation of the Hoy Scriptures. The Bible is the beginning and the end of our knowledge. Not so with humanism.

Our medieval ancestors understood theology to be the queen of the sciences. Her twin sister Sophia (the Greek word for “wisdom”) was also venerated in the discipline of philosophy. It was hard to tell the two beauties apart, but together they once ruled the many domains of human knowledge. Philosophy and theology departments today, however, are increasingly irrelevant backwaters in the modern university, engaged in seemingly solipsistic debates. If they want to reclaim exalted status in the university and society, they would do well to embrace Big History as the primary “revelation” and the Great Matrix of Being as foundational knowledge.

Grassie, William, Metanexus Institute, The Queen of the Sciences, Huffington Post: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-queen-of-the-sciences_b_2876470

This is scholarship? It is nothing more than a humanistic approach to materialism. Such scholarship begins with a denial of Theology (the study of God) and substitutes the mind of man. Wealth is often viewed as power. Power either comes from God or it comes from man. If the former, power is regulated by the Law of God. If the latter, there is no meaning. God is the only meaning as he created all there is. Those scientists who are honest may not believe in the Creator God, but they know they cannot scientifically deny him either.

…the Fall was a claim by man to define good and evil autonomously, in terms of himself. It was a claim to the power of meaning, the power to define, to be the yardstick in terms of which reality is to be judged. All things are made relative to autonomous man and his will as the principle of definition. Because meaning and definition are made relative to man rather than God, they change as man changes. Situation ethics makes morality relative to man, because man is the new absolute and the source of all definition. In Scripture, ethics is relative to God, who is the source of all meaning, and man, as a creature, must conform to the absolute law of the absolute God. The power of meaning in Scripture belongs entirely to God who is the only source of definition and interpretation, and the only source of power. According to David, “God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God” (Psalm 62:11). Moreover, with respect to all powers within the universe, they are derivative. According to St. Paul, there is no power but of God: “the powers that be are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1). Not only power but also meaning is derivative. The God who created all things is the only source of their meaning and interpretation. God Himself is beyond definition.

Rousas John Rushdoony, The Death of Meaning, (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2002), 93.

What does this have to do with the virgin Mary? The autonomy spoken about it the quote above is to be independent of God. The church would be foolish to deny that there are those within her who have sought and grabbed this position of power over God. They can be found among those who oppose the doctrine of the virgin birth. Likewise, they can be found within the ranks of those who elevate Mary to give her greater status and honor than that which God bestowed.

Therefore, I don’t know how, but I do know why Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. God has revealed it, and anyone who cares to become a true scholar of the Word of God can know it too.

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I Believe in Jesus Christ…Our Lord

…you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

1 Corinthians 6:11, ESV

Lord – A master; a person possessing supreme power and authority; a ruler; a governor. (Noah Webster, Noah Webster’s first edition of An American Dictionary of the English language., 2006.)

If that doesn’t fit Jesus Christ, then there is no sense in pretending that Christianity has any meaning. There are a lot of people who would be happy about that today. Maybe even some Christians would shy away from such a definition of Lord in reference to Jesus. But, as far as I can tell, there’s no way to dodge the truth. Jesus Christ holds supreme power and authority, for he is God. He, therefore, is the ruler, or governor, of all the earth, including all of humanity. How do we know this is true?

“…having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Ephesians 1:18–23, ESV

I was raised as a dispensationalist by my God-fearing parents. However, 41 years ago, I found too many errors in the dispensational system of interpretation. The key for me was in the way you had to interpret the Bible. The dispensationalist would lay out his theological scheme, and all of Scripture had to fit within that scheme. The result was interpreting some passages that I could not make fit, even after I spoke to them with my dad, a professor at my dispensational college, or my pastor. Then, an uncle of mine, a man who diligently studied the Scriptures, started giving me some things to read. It finally struck me that the reformed tradition of interpretation interprets the difficult passages by using other passages.

To say that the light flashed in my head, and I could see many things that dispensationalists get very wrong. For example, there is not a hard and fast separation between the Old Testament and the New. The Church’s foundations were laid by the Hebrews. It became surprising to me that to understand the writings in the New Testament. I needed to learn and comprehend the Old. Okay, off of that and back to the Creed.

One of the things I learned in the Reformed Church and came to love was observing the Church Calendar. What I find sad today is that fewer and fewer churches continue this practice. Sure, they observe Christmas and Easter, but other celebrations in the church were dismissed. And, one of those is the Day of Ascension. I think that the ascension is critical for the Lord Jesus Christ. It was the day he was taken into heaven and seated at the right hand of God. It is like the ascension is the coronation of Jesus Christ. He reigns all creation as the Master of it all; or, as Lord of it all.

John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Revelation 1:4–6, ESV

Why is the current reign of Christ over all the kings of the earth so important to the Church. We all believe that, don’t we? I think most of us as Christians do believe. However, the Church was formed by Christ for a specific purpose. That objective is to further the growth of his Kingdom until it covers the whole earth. The job was actually the task Adam and Eve were supposed to accomplish when God gave them dominion over all he had created. Now, Christ has called his Church to fulfill the dominion mandate by spreading the leaven through the whole lump of dough (Matthew 13:33).

The issue is, how can we be the leaven if we do not remember that Christ is our master? He has given us the job, and he will not return until it is completed. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9, ESV) For me, the definitive historical event displaying the reign of Christ was the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D. Jesus returned to earth to finalize the end of the Old Covenant. The New Covenant was predicted during the time of the Old by Jeremiah.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Jeremiah 31:31–34, ESV

It should be impossible to cite the Creed in worship without taking into account the current reign of Christ our Lord, and the work that is laid before us. In these troubled times, the Church must speak and live without fear. No matter the consequences, the Kingdom of our Christ moves forward by our holy living and speaking the only truth. We cannot bow before Jesus on Sunday mornings when we have not obeyed him the rest of the time.

Let us follow the Apostles’ example, who had the most challenging task of planting and tending the Church. We are called to continue on. “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5, ESV).

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Everything is Racist?

“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”

Romans 1:28–32 (ESV)

I can’t help but think that all of America has gone mad. Every day, someone somewhere claims that something in normal life is racist. For example, go here. Some of these sources claim to some sort of expertise whether as journalists, politicians, university professors, or theologians. Some of Paul’s inspired words for these people include envy, foolish, heartless, and ruthless. Their baseless claims are slanderous and come from their hatred of God.

One might wonder why the most patriotic citizens in our country came from other countries to seek freedom. Yes, the freedom they celebrate is the same freedom others so easily denigrate. The sad part of our freedom of speech is that so many use it to freely express their inventions of evil, or maybe it’s just their ignorance. So many victims born in the United States!

The liberty so many generations fought and died for is the freedom to work hard in order to provide for family and self. It is the freedom to help others in need and to be self-governing good people. It is the freedom to fail, get up again, and amend our ways. It is the freedom to forgive.

Some people say time changes all things. I say that it is not time that changes things, it is sin that takes all that is good and transforms it into everything that is bad. Freedom to be righteous has become freedom to be self-righteous. Freedom to make one’s way through life has become a desire for a free ride. True caring for the poor or the oppressed has become public theft through illegitimate taxation that people who choose not to be responsible are essentially paid to remain irresponsible.

Ultimately, the greatest deception of sin, in my opinion, is to make us believe that hatred of our condition is actually a love of ourselves. Equal opportunity has become equal outcome whether the outcome is earned or not. When the outcome is desired but not earned, it is tragically wasted. Working for something validates the value of the thing worked for. To receive something for nothing makes the something worth nothing. Liberty that does not cost a weighty price is not liberty. It is merely licentiousness.

God says through Paul that because people refuse to worship God, he gives them up to their own depraved thinking. Apart from submission to the Creator, there is no meaning and no value in anything. So, in the mind of those who deny God the status and glory that is his by right, everything is racist because “of no value, that which is worthless” is the real definition of the word racism. And Americans now reap what Americans have sown.

All value is derivative from the only One who is ultimately valuable, the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God has endowed his creation with value. This is especially true in regards to human beings, for we are created in God’s image. We were made to reflect the glory of God as mirrors of that glory. The image I see in a mirror is not me, but it is a representation of me. Therefore, we are not Gods but we were made to be representations of him. This explains why animals do not create things of beauty. We can see their beauty as creatures of God’s handiwork, but only human beings write poetry or great symphonies. Only those who bear the image of the creative God are creators of art, architecture, technology, and more. God gives us the raw material and using the knowledge, holiness, and righteousness within us we use this material to create wonderful things.

God’s goodness and grace are displayed in that even humans who refuse in sin to worship God use what God made them to be and create, rule creation, and work for one another. It rains on the righteous and the unrighteous and waters their crops the same. At the same time, the wickedness of the unrighteous is also displayed when they oppress and murder, hate and destroy, cheat and steal. How do we know this? By the reality that God’s love, righteousness, and justice have never completely disappeared from his creation.

Moreover, God entered his creation in Jesus Christ and showed us once again how valuable his creation and his people are. Our value is the very life of Jesus, who was crucified to pay for our sin. His work was finished on the cross which was proven effective by his resurrection from the dead. The good news did not stop there, for, on his coronation day, he ascended to heaven to take his throne and fulfill his rule over the earth. (May the Lord forgive us for no longer celebrating Ascension Day.)

This is why Paul could boldly claim that haters of God deserved to die. He did not say it was our job to kill them, only that they deserved death. Denial of God is the denial of everything that is. Applying this to our country means that making claims of racism where no racism exists is proof of the rejection of God and his creation. Is there such a thing as racism? Has the government of the United States of America done injustice and evil? Yes, but the standard is the one set by the Creator and Law Giver to whom everyone and every institution owes obedience and worship.

Our judgment is not what condemns people, for only Jesus Christ has been given that function. Yet, we are to judge others’ actions so that we can strive to counter their wickedness with righteousness and justice. Please notice that I did not say “social justice.” Social justice is the creation of sinful man. It may be dressed up as God’s justice, but there is no substitute for the real thing. Social justice condemns. God’s justice displays his glory. God’s justice corrects evil, cares for victims of evil, and restores wholeness.

God’s justice has dealt with the injustice of racism. The United States paid a huge price for the lives destroyed by the legalized slave trade. But God’s justice prevailed and slavery was ended. Many black Americans paid a huge price for the Jim Crow laws. But God’s justice prevailed and discrimination was made illegal. In neither of these events did justice happen overnight. Today, there are still some vestiges of discrimination. Nevertheless, Jesus Christ rules from heaven and is recreating the earth according to the New Covenant. Now, as I see it, you can either scream about perceived racism and injustice, you can demand to get something for nothing, or you can actually receive something without cost, the grace of God in salvation from sin, and you can join the reclamation work of the Lord.

“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Romans 13:8–10 (ESV)

“…the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Romans 14:17 (ESV)

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I Believe in Jesus Christ, His Only Begotten Son

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

Throughout the history of the Church, the identity of Christ and the dual nature of Jesus have been disputed. The Apostles’ Creed uses three designations that the orthodox faith requires to be held harmoniously. First, he is the Christ, Greek for the Hebrew term Messiah. Second, he is Jesus, who is to be identified more specifically in the following statements. Third, he is the only begotten Son of God. Each must be believed, not only individually but altogether as descriptive of the one person who is the second member of the Triune God.

During his life on earth, Jesus was both received and rejected as the long-awaited Messiah of the Jewish people. Sadly, even his disciples did not fully comprehend what this meant. When Jesus fed the crowds by Galilee, there were many there who would have made him King of the Jews on the spot. The Messiah was one anointed by God to become King according to the covenant made with David. This does not mean that the Jews understood what was meant, even though the Old Testament prophets expressed it.

David was a conquering king. He defeated Goliath, the Philistines, and Saul who had been disobedient before God. He had been hand-picked by God through the prophet Samuel. Whereas God had warned Israel against a human king, Saul became the proof of the pudding leading the people away from obedience. David was God’s response. He was no less human than Saul, but he was a man after God’s own heart. Despite his failings, the Kingdom of Israel became one of the most powerful in all the world.

Nevertheless, David was not the ultimate king. One was to come after him who would reign over the whole world. When Jesus came to earth, Israel was subjugated by the rule of Rome. The people’s hopes rested in what they believed was the promise of God to rule the world. True enough, but the arrogance of the Jews caused them to believe that they would rule the world as all other conquering empires before them. Time and again, God addressed this pride. His covenant with Abram was that all the people of the world would be blessed through his people. This is a far cry from a promise of domination by force.

One of the curious episodes in the Old Testament is that of the prophet Jonah. I think it is unfortunate that the part about the great fish has overshadowed the theological significance of Jonah’s call to proclaim God’s judgment to the Ninevites. We don’t see why Jonah tried to run from his duty to God until the end of the story. But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:1–3, ESV) Jonah was angry with God for being gracious to a heathen nation. Poor Jonah, he had not been trained theologically. He knew God was merciful. The problem is that God was supposed only to be merciful to Israel!

God’s people did not understand. God was merciful to all who would repent. Sadly, Israel did not bow in humble repentance for her sins against God. When exiled, they whined, “O woe to us! God has forsaken us.”

By the waters of Babylon, 
there we sat down and wept, 
when we remembered Zion.  
On the willows there, we hung up our lyres.  
For there our captors required of us songs,  
and our tormentors, mirth, saying, 
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” 
How shall we sing the LORD’s song 
in a foreign land?  
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,  
let my right hand forget its skill!  
Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth,  
if I do not remember you,  
if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy!  
Remember, O LORD,  
against the Edomites the day of Jerusalem,  
how they said, “Lay it bare,  
lay it bare, down to its foundations!”  
O daughter of Babylon,  
doomed to be destroyed,  
blessed shall he be who repays you  
with what you have done to us!  
Blessed shall he be  
who takes your little ones  
and dashes them against the rock!” (Psalm 137, ESV)

The Messiah had fed his people, and they sought to make him their King. Jesus had to slip away from them “for it was not yet his time.” Interestingly, the hopes of the people were the reason the Jewish leaders sought to kill Jesus. Their pride had become comfortable in their ruling over the people. It made them feel powerful, and they did not want to share the power they had acquired. Not much has changed over the millennia. Where are the righteous rulers of the people? As Ezekiel wrote, they were too busy eating the green grass and trampling the rest under their feet. They were too busy drinking the fresh water and fouling and muddying it under their feet.

Second, the Messiah is given a name, Jesus. How this came about is told in the gospels, and the creed goes into that soon enough. The fact that one appeared as a mere man claiming to be the Messiah was enough to raise doubt. The purpose of the miracles done by Jesus was to confirm that he was the Messiah sent by God. Jesus rightly pointed out that people seek a sign, but when they are given signs, they still do not believe. Signs are something material, tangible. How can the material prove the spiritual? This is why it is easy for people to con others into believing they have extraordinary powers from God. Ultimately, the false teachers are emperors running around with no clothes. Their riches amount to poverty, and their healings return only death.

An important aspect, though, to Jesus being a man is that he is also God. “And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate…” (Historic Creeds and Confessions, electronic ed., (Oak Harbor: Lexham Press, 1997)). The Nicene Creed was a clarification of the statement in the Apostles’ Creed, though they were likely both written about the same time. Later, Chalcedon and the Athanasian Creed clarified the point all the more.

The problem was that men could not seem to wrap their brains around the two natures of Christ, both God, and man, divine and human. It’s not that I cannot relate to the difficulty. I cannot experience divinity, but I know all too well humanity. As much as the councils of the Church attempted to clarify the matter, the heresies of ancient times have continued in one form or another ever since. The term begotten does not mean born, though that is almost always what it means in the human world. In the case of Jesus Christ, though, begotten of the Father means that he proceeds from the Father, not that he was generated by the Father. Jesus was born of a woman, but he was not born of God in the same way. This will get clearer, or fuzzier, for that matter, as we continue with the creed.

However, the matter is not whether Jesus was born or not. The matter is that Jesus Christ is the ONLY Son of God. Yes, “…to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12–13, ESV) We have become children of God, but not begotten children of God. We have been adopted as his children, whereas Jesus is by nature the Son of God. On our best day, we can only claim to be created by God, not begotten of him. We are not deity. The closest we will ever come to deity is to share in our inheritance in Christ Jesus.

So, why all these definitions, details, and splitting of hairs? Because there is only one truth and thousands of lies. If we would know God, then we must know him as he is and as he has revealed himself to us. We don’t dare allow ourselves to create God in our image. We are created in his, and to know who we are, we have to know who he is.

It is not really about what we think we know, for if we are wrong, we can’t honestly believe.

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Cancel Culture

I just finished reading Gary DeMar’s latest article on American Vision. You can read it hear. It got me thinking, and I have come up with a few questions, some of which come from the article itself.

Why is it that it is acceptable for other religions to publicly display their beliefs but not Christianity? Why are atheists so insecure in their thinking that they feel the need to shut Christians up? Why are those who demand the Constitutional freedom of speech the same ones who would deny it for those who disagree with them? Why is it that a race of people who cannot get over the oppression of their descendants have no guilt or remorse for oppressing others in their quest for superiority? Why is it that companies and corporations believe that promoting deviant lifestyles will serve to increase their business?

Why is it that those who most hate being judged by their skin color hate others for theirs? Why is it that legal immigrants, many of whom came to America with much difficulty, love America and the Constitution more than many citizens by birth? Why do so many historians hate history so much that they are willing to make it up as they go along? Why is it that those who have not read an author’s work are often the ones who object so strenuously to its content? Why is it that the most ignorant among us can’t help but demonstrate that fact publicly? Why is it that institutions of higher education turn out so many poorly educated people?

Why is it that the people who object to the pledge of allegiance because we are not a nation under God are the ones who have no problem spending money with In God We Trust printed on it? Why is it that you can often tell the nature of one’s spirituality by counting how many times they take the Lord’s name in vain? Why is it that someone so quickly uses the words God and Jesus Christ as expletives, but no one uses the name Buddha or Krishna this way? Why is it that an organization that hates the gospel of Jesus Christ and deceitfully manipulates its members can call itself a church?

Without having any good answers to these questions, this middle-class white male is not giving up or giving in. After all, watching those who differ ideologically with me go ballistic when I defend my faith that, though there may not be a white culture, there is undoubtedly a Christian culture that for over two millennia has provided developments in science, medicine, technology, books, music, and so much more. Their screaming and antics are more fun to watch than anything on T.V. these days.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Revelation 21:1–4, ESV

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

Revelation 22:1–5, ESV

Then I fell to my knees, and looked up toward my Lord, and said, Thank you for answering all my questions. Maranatha, come quickly, Lord Jesus.

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