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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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Fear

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Galatians 6:7–9, ESV

Fear wants us to give up. That is the easy thing to do. In the classic movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the character George Bailey gets so pressured by a run on the bank that he fears losing the bank altogether. In his fear, he wishes he had never been born. That is the ultimate fear, one that brings us to the edge. George Bailey wishes he had never been born. Others who think they should never be born take it one step farther – suicide. Nihilism is giving up.

Nihilism (ˈnaɪɪˌlɪzəm) n 1 a complete denial of all established authority and institutions. 2 Philosophy. an extreme form of scepticism that systematically rejects all values, belief in existence, the possibility of communication, etc.. 3 a revolutionary doctrine of destruction for its own sake. 4 the practice or promulgation of terrorism. [C19: from Latin nihil nothing + -ISM, on the model of German Nihilismus] ▶ ˈnihilist n or adj ▶ ˌnihilˈistic adj

Collins English Dictionary, 2000.

Reading through this definition of nihilism, I concluded that this is what is being played out in America right now. I’m not claiming that people are running around saying they are nihilists. What I see, though, are the distinct characteristics of nihilism in the actions of many around us. The denial today goes beyond the “denial of all established authority.” It is a claim that all of the values of the past are evil. The word used most often is racist. The idea that all white people are racists because they are white is reason enough to “cancel” them. Thus, we are living in the chaotic waters of “cancel culture.”

Moreover, anyone who listens to the logic of white non-culture (because the whites got all their culture by stealing it from other cultures anyway) is a racist too. Lately, if you support Israel, you are reprimanded for being unsympathetic with Hamas. Nihilistic tendencies are not well thought out, and there is an emphasis on feeling over logic. The Church has been no help in preventing nihilism. Either she has been accused of being an authoritarian tool to manipulate non-white races and subjugate them, or she has joined the bandwagon by focusing self-centered worship focused on how you feel as you are walking out the door.

When I was younger, I couldn’t help wondering how a family could be so kind and encouraging while they were at church yet bicker and argue all the way home. I cannot tell a lie; I was one of them. Almost every time I went with my friend to his church, I was crying toward the end and dying to go forward for the altar call. Feelings don’t last. You can be happy one moment and outraged the next. Listen carefully to the crowd at a professional sporting event. When the home team does something great, there are cheers. A three-point shot goes through the hoop, and the people are thrilled. They didn’t hear the whistle of the referee calling a foul on the shooter. What do you hear then?

Against modern-day conceptions, Christianity is not a religion made by white people to enslave any other people group. Granted, there are many who, years ago, chose to be selective in the passages of the Bible they wanted to read and interpret. But that is no reason to say all people devoted to the Bible’s truths are wrong. Before and after the Civil War, plenty of men owned slaves and even defended this practice from the Bible. We can never forget that the Bible can be sliced up and interpreted almost any way you want. Many unscrupulous people in the church’s history have used the Bible for their personal gain. I think that is why Jesus said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” (Mark 9:42, ESV)

I believe that Paul is saying something similar when he writes to the Christians in Galatia, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows.” No matter what anyone says and no matter what anyone does, there is a consequence. The wisdom of this statement has been used in a shorter version, “You reap what you sow.” You sure do. And so do I. Sometimes we get a taste of the suffering we have caused while we walk this earth. Whatever the case, we will all stand before Christ, ad he will judge our works.

Therefore, the angels could say to God’s people, “Fear not.” You see, if you have given yourself to Christ, he has washed away our sin. How can this be? Indeed, I am as evil as the guy burning down a store enraged about something they never really experienced themselves. I tend not to show it that way, but my heart is the same. There is but one difference, Jesus has reaped what I have sowed. He took the righteous judgment I deserve and nailed it to the cross.

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

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Humans and Humanists

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

1 John 1:1–4, ESV

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come.

1 John 2:15–18, ESV

I came across something, quite by accident, that made me pause and think. It was an article about the service held for someone who had died and his friends and family, called a Humanist Funeral. I had never heard of this, so I began to search for what a humanist funeral is.

Humanist funerals and memorials are non-religious ceremonies supporting family and friends to mourn and celebrate the person who has died. They focus on the life they led, the relationships they forged, and the legacy they left. They are based on the humanist perspective that every life is individual and valuable.

https://humanism.org.uk/ceremonies/non-religious-funerals/

What caught my attention was that this funeral service is supposed to be non-religious, but the structure closely follows a traditional religious funeral and even ends with “the Committal.” To what or to who is the dead person committed since, for most Humanists, there is no afterlife (yes, there are exceptions, but those who think there may be an afterlife are religious to some degree). Additionally, the service is often aided in preparation and performance by a Humanist Celebrant, trained and certified to undertake the task. Aside from the attempted avoidance of religion and a god, this sounds similar to the Clergy.

Questions began to enter my mind. I know I have read about humanism before, but I never took the time to look into precisely what it is. To do so, I had to go to some authoritative source. Here is what I found on the American Humanist Association web site:

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism or other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good.

American Humanist Association

Humanism is a democratic and ethical lifestance (sic) which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethics based on human and other natural values in a spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality.

Humanists International

With a bit more research, I discovered that Humanists pitch is that religion is acceptable if you want it, but you are wrong to believe it. You can talk about a god if you like, but there is no God. The emphasis is logic and empirical evidence. There is nothing beyond that, including a morality based on societal needs and rational thought.

“Non-believers” do, of course, have many beliefs, though not religious ones. For example, they typically believe that moral feelings are based on treating others as they would wish to be treated (the ‘golden rule’ which antedates all the major world religions)… “Humanist” is used today to mean those who seek to live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs. (https://humanism.org.uk/humanism/humanism-today/non-religious-beliefs/) A humanist may embrace all or most of the other approaches introduced here, and in addition humanists believe that moral values follow on from human nature and experience in some way. Humanists base their moral principles on reason (which leads them to reject the idea of any supernatural agency), on shared human values and respect for others. They believe that people should work together to improve the quality of life for all and make it more equitable. Humanism is a full philosophy, “life stance” or worldview, rather than being about one aspect of religion, knowledge, or politics.

Hold on there. The ‘golden rule’? I have to challenge that there is no evidence that the golden rule “antedates all the major world religions.” This is quite a statement made with no rational or scientific support. The Golden Rule is religious. “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12, ESV). “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 Golden Rule is not pure logic. Without the authority of God the Creator, thus Owner of the universe, there cannot be a morality of the Golden Rule. “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:18, ESV, emphasis mine) Logically, without God, everything gets turned on its head. Why love my neighbor if cheating, stealing, or even killing him is to my advantage? What is to say that the morality of a serial killer is less moral than that of the Humanist?

The Humanist, the Agnostic, the Atheist, the Secularist, the Rationalist, and the Skeptic are all the most illogical people. Let’s start with the need for empirical evidence as the foundation for morality. Some things exist that cannot be empirically proved. No one can see or hear the thoughts I have unless I speak or write them or find another way to express them, such as art and music. Nevertheless, those thoughts are as real as I am. Therefore, to exclude things that are not empirical and not existing is not logical.

Then, there is the rational attempt to enforce any morality upon others without some basis for doing so. What the Humanist thinks is reasonable, there can be a multitude that thinks it is unreasonable. Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin thought genocide was reasonable and forced their morality upon whole nations. When they tried to spread their moral righteousness throughout the world, they discovered how many others disagreed. Ultimately, there cannot be any moral judgment apart from a universal foundation and source for morality. In that case, the Humanist can claim to be logical, but there is no logic to their worldview.

No system of morality can be based upon anything other than the order that the one God created. Any attempt to do so is like Eve, who, deceived by the serpent, reached out for the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, which is only God’s right. God has revealed what he wants his created humans to know and to do. So, God is good, and evil is anything that would set itself against God by claiming his goodness is ours to declare by fiat.

Then there is John. He was known as the one beloved by Christ Jesus. The Apostle answers the humanist in so few words. First, the evidence for the existence of God was seen, felt, and heard by all of the Apostles and many of the disciples of Christ. That God was the one who put on his creation and came to live in it. Second, some have and will arise in opposition to Christ, those that John calls antichrist. Any thought, system, worldview that would deny Christ is antichrist. It is evident that Humanists love the world and the things of the world. While so many Humanists celebrate the life and accomplishments of one who has died, I grieve because Humanists are dead already.

There is hope, though. The Gospel is available to them. If only they could see that their worldview keeps them from the promise of life that the God they deny offers them.

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Hats Off to Saint Patrick

There are many stories and legends surrounding the Saints of the Church. None more so than with St. Patrick. I don’t know if the words of St. Patrick’s Breastplate were penned by him or someone else, but I love the prayer. May we all seek the courage to arise today.

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”

Ephesians 6:11 (ESV)
I arise today 
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In the predictions of prophets,
In the preaching of apostles,
In the faith of confessors,
In the innocence of holy virgins,
In the deeds of righteous men.

I arise today, through
The strength of heaven,
The light of the sun,
The radiance of the moon,
The splendor of fire,
The speed of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of the sea,
The stability of the earth,
The firmness of rock.

I arise today, through
God's strength to pilot me,
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptation of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and near.

I summon today
All these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel and merciless power
that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul;
Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me an abundance of reward.

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

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The Law of laws, part 8 of 10

“You shall not steal.

(Exodus 20:15, ESV)

If you think about it, theft of some sort is involved in each of the other nine commandments.

  • You shall have no other gods before me. – Theft of God’s place as the only God.
  • You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God… – Theft of God’s rightful worship.
  • You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. – Theft of God’s name (identity, character, nature).
  • Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God…For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. – Theft of God’s creation and his rule over it.
  • Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. – Theft of the respect due to those whom God has given authority over you.
  • You shall not murder. – Theft of life.
  • You shall not commit adultery. – Theft of one’s present or future spouse.
  • You shall not steal. – Theft.
  • You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. – Theft of one’s reputation.
  • You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s. – Theft in the heart.

Granted, this is a broad stroke. Yet it does place theft as greater than simply not swiping pencils from work. Stealing is for everyone a difficult sin to break. At work, without even realizing it, we steal our employer’s time with irrelevant conversations that do not enhance our productivity. Maybe you think that is not theft. Instead, it is enhancing the work environement so production may improve with improved moral. Rationalizations like this infect every sphere of our lives. Moral is not about feeling good about where you are and who you are with. Moral in the workforce resutls from “six days you shall labor.” It comes from “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:17.)

Small rationalizations lead to larger ones. In our country we rationalize killing human beings because the “right to choose” is greater than the gift of God in procreation. We rationalize free and uncommitted sex because our fleshly desires are greater than God’s created order. We irrationally rationalize at the end of our public prayer when we say, “May the Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon us and give us peace, peace in our families, peace across this land, and dare I ask, o Lord, peace even in this chamber. We ask it in the name of the monotheistic God, Brahma, and ‘God’ known by many names by many different faiths. Amen and awoman.” (see here)

Sorry to characterize this prayer with words I normally don’t like to use, but, it was foolish and stupid. The government of the House of Representatives allowed this man to publicly denounce God and blaspheme his name calling him the “monotheistic God, Brahma, and ‘God’ known by many names and many different faiths.” Yes, the is one God. No, he is not Brahma. No, he is not known by many names and many different faiths. The one true God is YHWH. He gave Moses his name to use so that being sent, he was sent with the authority of YHWH. The battle between Moses and Pharaoh was not about the two of them. It was all out war whereby God ridiculed and humiliated the many gods of Egypt, because there is only ONE GOD, the maker of heaven and earth, and ruler of all that is.

Sorry for shouting. I became aware of the prayer’s ending from news outlets criticizing Representative Cleaver’s prayer ending with “Amen, and Awomen.” Ok, that was stupid too. As has been pointed out, the word Amen comes from the Latin? No. It comes from Hebrew:

אָמֵן (ʾāmēn). adv. verily, truly, amen. Used in statements of affirmation in which the speaker accepts the truth of a statement.

Aaron C. Fenlason, Lexham Theological Wordbook, 2014.

It was transliterated in other languages later. Latin came later in history than Hebrew. The issue, though, is not about making a word that has nothing to do with gender into a word that only has to do with gender. Words now do not have meaning. Words mean what we want them to mean when we want them to mean whatever we want them to mean. And if you found that last sentence to be confusing and hard to follow, welcome to America in 2021. You may also reconsider leaving your children in public school.

Theft of a word is embarrassing. Theft of the knowledge of God is damning. I do not really blame our politicians for this hubris. As a pastor, I have lay the blame at the doorstep of the Church. In our culture it is impossible not to hurt someone’s feelings. So we let people believe whatever makes them feel good, and Calling God “Brahma” must feel good. However, no one with any sense or education should be able to see that the God of the Hebrews would have nothing to do with some mythical creature who created Hinduism. I have been to a Hindu Temple and out of respect, I asked the doorkeeper if he objected to a Christian entering the temple. He told me that Hinduism accepts Christianity and that the two are not that different from each other. I wasn’t there to proselytize but to learn, so I let that one go.

Hindus may accept Christians, but only those Christians who are willing to deny their faith and the teaching of Scripture for the sake of getting along and having fellowship. Why has the Church stolen the authority of God’s Word? Words, sentences, paragraphs have been twisted and manipulated the very meaning of God. Culture may change but God does not. He created two genders designed for marriage and procreation. Why is this all of a sudden bad doctrine? Because we don’t want people to leave the church. Parents with openly homosexual children place their need to be loved over and above their call to love.

Many years ago, Keith Green was recorded preaching a sermon. He wanted to illustrate the calling of the Church to evangelize so he asked if anyone present would not stop their child from running onto a busy highway. His point has been lost over the decades. Today, we are telling our children to have fun playing and ignoring the danger to life. If we don’t care, who will?

We are sinners who love to steal. We are sinners who need to repent. There is only one God who is in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You cannot serve him and play with the devil too. The hope our world needs is not feeling better but turning to Christ Jesus. He is not Brahma, and he is not a god known by many names. He is God known to those who bow before his majesty, repent, and seek forgiveness offered through his sacrifice. He may have various names in the Scriptures, but none of them embrace the foolishness we have seen lately.

God, forgive us for trying to steal from you rather than to receive freely what you offer. Amen.

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The Law of Laws, part 5 of 10

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

Exodus 20:12, ESV

The fifth commandment is well known. However, calling for us to honor our parents is not for their sake, but for God’s. The word used for “honor” is the word often connected with God. In many places it is translated “glory,” though its most basic understanding is “heavy.”

This somewhat unusual verb conveys a dual sense of becoming “heavier” negatively (in sin or opposition) or positively (in honor or glory).[1]

If we break this down, it appears that the fifth commandment is about 1) family structure, 2) submission to ordained authority, and 3) submission to the Lord God Almighty.

Honoring father and mother does not mean to always agree with them. One response to this commandment I have often heard is that no one should be expected to “honor” someone who is abusing them. To this I reply, “Correct. And if we take seriously the study of God’s word, we would know of the exceptions to the rule accounted for in God’s Law.” Too often when we think of law, we think of things in stark contrasts: right and wrong; black and white; this is the only way, etc. Thankfully, God is wiser than man and accounts for all things in his law.

Leviticus 18:21 prevents a parent from offering their children to Molech. No one would say that since Molech is the god mentioned that child sacrifice was ok in other circumstances. I don’t think it means that other forms of physical abuse are allowed either. But this is not the main problem we face today, though it is a significant one.

The main issue is the destruction of the family as the fundamental structure of social order. It is easy to say that marriage and family don’t matter. Many say that to be legally married is nothing more than adding a piece of paper to a relationship. But is that really the case? I find it interesting that people spend thousands of dollars to create contracts to buy or sell, to partner or to define a business relationship. Sadly, one argument against marriage is that it is so costly and messy to divorce. Exactly! Marriage is more commitment than anything else. And a commitment made by vows with God as your witness should never be easily broken.

So much more could be said about the family that can be taken up at another time. However, there is one thing I would like to emphasize. We live in a broken world and therefore we should not be too surprised that there is no ideal family. Fathers anger children. Mothers frustrate children. And children drive parents crazy. The ideal family is one that is centered around God and his Law/Word. Some will have a mother and a father. Some will have only one or the other. Some will suffer great tragedy. Others will not. The key is Christ at the center will all members obedient to him.

Second, I have lived my whole life in times of rebellion against authority. I do not think this is unusual. There have always been the rebellious. In the sixties the rebellion was children against parents. Teachers and other educators filled young adults with unbiblical philosophies which led to the desire for autonomy from all authority. The results? Riots, dangerous cults, violence, and death, to name a few. Personally, I think the media overplayed much of what went on making things sound worse than they were. Ratings have always been more important than just reporting the news.

My parents were ashamed with how police officers were treated. Yet they weren’t ashamed of their own attempts at autonomy. We all have a rebellious streak in our natures because all of our natures are sinful. How should sins be handled? Repent and amend.

No one would know their need to repent if there was no standard for moral behavior. Thanks be to God, he is our standard and he has spoken. Any dislike of God’s law is a result of our sin natures. Sound like a catch-22? In a way, but as Paul told the Jews in Rome, they were the receptacle of the Law/Word. Their job was to live by it and pass it on to their children (there’s family again) and the world. How can we know right from wrong if our ability to discern is as broken as everything else in the world?

The preacher in Ecclesiastes said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Why? Because God does not change and all morality flows from his holy nature. What was true millennia ago is true today. God has given to some the authority to keep order in his world. Those called to this task are held by God to a very high standard. We are too. God declares to us that obedience and disobedience (with some exceptions) of those given over us, such as government, law enforcement, and parents, deserve our respect. To disrespect God’s ministers of order is to defy God and thus we come to the third point.

It all comes down to being obedient to God and his Law. Yet this commandment, it is often pointed out, is one with a promise attached. “So that you may live long in the land the Lord is giving you.” Life itself is attached to honoring father and mother. I do not know of anyone who would seriously suggest that we should stone rebellious children. But that penalty does impress upon us the seriousness with which God presents this commandment.

However, he does not state that disobedience will result in death. We already know that because we are already dead. Instead, God emphasizes the positive reward of obedience. To obey God is life. Obedience does not earn life. Obedience is an assurance granted to us that we will live. For who can obey apart from the Spirit of God?

The fifth commandment has been remarked to be a “swing” from our duty to God to our duty to our fellow humans. I prefer to look at it as the reminder that our duty to our fellow humans is encased in our duty to God. Fail in either one, we fail in both.

So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Romans 8:12–17, ESV

[1]Gregory R. Lanier, Lexham Theological Wordbook, 2014.

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The Law of Laws, part four

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:8–11, ESV)

“Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work…You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. ” (Deuteronomy 5:12–15, ESV)

I have never received more questions about the Ten Commandments that in this, the fourth commandment.

  • If the Sabbath is the seventh day, why do we worship on Sunday which is the first day?
  • If we go out to lunch on Sunday, is that a violation of the fourth commandment?
  • What all does “rest” mean?
  • My boss requires me to work on Sunday. Does that make me a sinner?

I am sure you can think of some of your own. The reference to the Sabbath day in the Old Testament has been often misunderstood. The seventh day was not Saturday. The calendar of the ancient Hebrews was not like our calendars today. You can get a feeling for the Hebrew calendar here. God gave a reason for making the Sabbath day the seventh day. It all has to do with Creation. If you check out Genesis 1, you will discover that God created everything in the world in six days. Huge scholarly debates surround whether this is true or not. Nevertheless, the seventh day followed the previous six days, each of which God blessed saying his work was good.

Why, then, a seventh day at all? I believe God spoke of a seventh day because he would give the number seven a deeper meaning. For example, a new born child was to be circumcised on the eight day implying that the child was unclean the first seven days. This concept ( clean/unclean, not circumcision) was also applied to animals and various illnesses. In any case, the seventh day marked the completion of God’s week. His work was finished so now he rested.

The word we call sabbath is in Hebrew shabbot. On the Sabbath day today, many Jews greet each other saying, “Shabbot shalom,” peace this sabbath. The concept of rest never meant total inactivity. The cessation of work on the Sabbath was the stopping of a certain kind of work, i.e. work that benefited oneself. The various exceptions in the law of the sabbath related to emergencies and helping others. But the basic law was applied to the Jews gathering manna to each. Each day they could gather only what they could eat in one day. Anything more would rot. However, on the day before the Sabbath, they could gather what would be needed so they could eat on the Sabbath day.

There is a parallel to this in God’s creation. The six days of creation were God’s work for himself. All creation was for the glory of God. God ceased his work on the seventh day because his work was finished. Therefore, since he did not work on the seventh day, he wanted his people to remember the creation, its purpose of glorifying God, and the cessation of work on the seventh day. It must be remembered that all of creation began the fullness of life on the seventh day. We began life within God’s rest. God provides for all our needs and to remember that truth, we were to work six days and rest on the seventh.

There is a different purpose for the sabbath listed in Deuteronomy. The representative of all humanity to come committed a sin resulting in death, humanity’s separation from God’s fellowship. Being apart from God, it was impossible for mankind to glorify God as created. Everything, including life itself became laborious. Yet in the depth of Israel’s labor, slavery in Egypt, God rescued them. God saved them. So, in addition to the memory of God’s rest from creation, now they were to remember his salvation, too.

All of this is important to us because, it was on the seventh day that God saved his people (the day of the observance of the first Passover for all feast days are sabbath days). Another way of looking at it is that God saved Israel from their slavery on the sabbath day. This is the day they stopped working as slaves. The first day of their freedom, then, is the eighth day. Making the connection with all seventh day practices, full life was experienced on the eighth day. The newborn baby was now a member of the people of God. The new born cattle were now ready for service. Those healed from leprosy were rejoined with the community.

The application was not missed by the Apostles, or by the Reformers. Christ died just before the seventh day. His sacrifice was complete but its application was not. During his time in the grave, “he descended to hell,” as the creed says. Paul tells the Ephesians that he led forth a host of captives and gave gifts to men (Ephesians 4:8). The picture is that Jesus Christ paid for sin as the Passover Lamb on the seventh day and we begin to experience our salvation on the eight day. For the Christian, new life becomes for us the eighth day.

This is why we gather for worship on Sunday. This is why we celebrate life in Christ and our resurrection from the dead on Sunday. This is why we glorify God as a community of his people on Sunday. The reality is that we no longer live on the sabbath day. Every day of our lives as born in Christ Jesus is the eighth day. The sabbath day has been moved by the death and resurrection of Christ to the eight day, and the eighth day begins with Sunday and becomes our whole life in Christ.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28–29, ESV) He did not speak of rest for a day. He spoke of rest for life. He did not refer to labor as working at a job. He spoke of rest for our souls.

Though this has been a long journey, we have come to the end of our labor. Peace and rest be yours in Christ.

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Of Consolation and Desolation

The terms consolation and desolation are used by Ignatius de Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises. I’ll let Ignatius define the terms, though they are briefly presented and not in their fullness.

I call it consolation when some interior movement in the soul is caused, through which the soul comes to be inflamed with love of its Creator and Lord and when it can in consequence love no created thing on the face of the earth in itself, but in the Creator of them all…Finally, I call consolation every increase of hope, faith and charity, and all interior joy which calls and attracts to heavenly things and to the salvation of one’s soul, quieting it and giving it peace in its Creator and Lord. [1]

I call desolation all the contrary of the third rule [regarding consolation], such as darkness of soul, disturbance in it, movement to things low and earthly, the unquiet of different agitations and temptations, moving to want of confidence, without hope, without love, when one finds oneself all lazy, tepid, sad, and as if separated from his Creator and Lord. [2]

Remembering that the Exercises were written between 1522 and 1524, the words “consolation” and “desolation” are translations of Latin terms which were translations of Spanish words for Ignatius wrote in Spanish, we can gather that Ignatius did not use them in the manner in which we use them today. Our dictionaries sum it up in the one word “comfort.” Desolation is grief, sadness, and ruin. As I write, I will be using Ignatius’ definitions.

Now it seems to me that the modern-day Church has become enamored with consolation. We want things that are going to feel good, to help us put last week behind us and “fill us up” for the week to come. However, this process can be done through many different means. For instance, attending a concert or play, watching a movie, or going to a sporting event. There are other ways of trying to get the “feeling” of consolation such as drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana. None of these things have anything to do with the Church, worship, or God.

I am empathetic to this weekly attempt to get a spiritual high. I have participated in some churches in my life seeking the same thing. But the high one gets from worship, if one gets anything at all, is very short-lived. It dissipates like smoke in the air. I am also empathetic with pastors who feel the pressure from his or her congregation to be as charming, charismatic, and entertaining as those they hear on the radio or see on television.

However, feeling good is not at all what worship is about. In fact, if worship is properly addressed to God, we might well feel humble, ashamed, and thankful for our salvation. Look again at the definition, “every increase of hope, faith and charity, and all interior joy which calls and attracts to heavenly things and to the salvation of one’s soul, quieting it and giving it peace in its Creator and Lord.” Consolations call us to heavenly things, to salvation, and it is peacefully quiet. Try to accomplish the latter in our contemporary theater-like churches and highly paced music and worship.

Ignatius gives us instruction for times of consolation:

Let him who is consoled see to humbling himself and lowering himself as much as he can, thinking how little he is able for in the time of desolation without such grace or consolation. [3]

Why? Because in this life, consolation is fleeting. We even have the power to psychologically create feelings of consolation that are not consolation at all. They are emotional tricks.

Jesus took Peter, John, and James up a mountain to the top (Matthew 17). When they reached the top, they saw Jesus transfigured. The Greek word is where we get the word metamorphosis. Jesus was changed, and the change was so the three disciples could see him in his glorified state. Now that’s consolation! Peter was so excited that he wanted to stay there. He never wanted to leave the consolation of Jesus glorified. The voice of God interrupted Peter in his excitement. They were not to stay there in their mountain-top high. They had to go back down the mountain and work. And that is where desolation does its work.

I will continue this in my next post.

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A New Covenant

“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)

Today is Palm Sunday. Many of us are either home alone or with our families making some attempt to worship our Lord and God, Jesus Christ. However, as Martin Luther penned, “The body they may kill, God’s truth abideth still, his kingdom is forever.” Thanks be to God!

My last post was a bit of a commentary on the two aspects of Palm Sunday. First is the joy of the coming of the King, and the second is what the king brings with him. That is the judgment on sin and the righteousness of God.

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.” (Romans 3:21–22, ESV)

In this lies the Gospel. The coming of the King was not for a political conquering of the world but for a spiritual conquering. I am not trying to imply that one is material and the other is not, for all things material were and are spiritual. It is their use that is for good or for evil, and that use centers on the hearts of mankind. Humanism is the dividing point for motivations that are anthropocentric are in conflict with those that are theocentric. More simply put, the goals of sinful man are self-glory as gods and not denial of self for the glory of God Almighty who created all humanity to be in his image.

Following our sin, God began his restoration project. His work among us has been and remains to be by Covenant. The coming of Christ is the fulcrum of restoration. Anna and Simion knew it. So did the angels, the shepherds, and the magi. The disciples learned to see it and became apostles to proclaim it to the whole world. There is no accident or coincidence that the Bible is the greatest book of all time and has bee preserved from the earliest days. And there is no accident or coincidence that all of history is divided into two parts which are divided by the Incarnation. Anno Domini or AD and Before Christ or BC are not from the Bible and came much later in history. However, they are the recognition that there was a major shift in history.

In the biblical sense, the division is the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. God came in the flesh to finish the Old Covenant and establish a new one. Jeremiah makes the clearest prophecy of the coming of a new covenant, but all of the Old Covenant was to prepare us for that which was to come in Christ. Jesus himself declared that he brought a New Covenant when he said, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luke 22:20, ESV)

This week we shall observe the meeting with the disciples in the upper room, the prayer in the garden, the treason of Judas, the kangaroo court that judged the Messiah, the crucifixion of Christ, and his resurrection. We will see the tapestry in the Temple torn, the sky darkened, the earth shaken, and the burial of God. The old is “finished.”

And we shall celebrate the coming of the new. This coming will take time. Jesus will give final instructions and the Spirit to those he has called to be Apostles. The Holy Spirit will be poured out on all flesh. The Temple in Jerusalem will be destroyed so that not one stone will be left standing (Matthew 24:2). Then the old will give way to the new completely.

Let us all rejoice at the coming of the King who brought the New Covenant. Let us all embrace that Covenant of Christ and live new lives.

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)

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Our Only Comfort

The first Lord’s Day of the Heidelberg Catechism reads as follows:

Question 1
What is thy only comfort in life and death?
That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him. (Historic Creeds and Confessions, electronic ed., (Oak Harbor: Lexham Press, 1997).

The catechism was written during and for the Dutch Reformation. Times were tough then. Challenges to the Roman Church were treated with severity. The words at the beginning of this great document designed as a preaching resource are true words of comfort. Dr. Zacharias Ursinus, the author and first commentator of the document began with an overview of the gospel. Can anyone say this is not the beginning of wisdom and comfort?

“The substance of this comfort consists in this that we are ingrafted into Christ by faith, that through him we are reconciled to, and beloved of God, that thus he may care for and save us eternally.” (Zacharias Ursinus and G. W. Williard, The Commentary of Dr. Zacharias Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism, (Cincinnati, OH: Elm Street Printing Company, 1888), 17).

I encourage you to meditate on these words. Most copies of the catechism have verses in the Bible footnoted, however, maybe you can search the Scriptures for support. Nevertheless, we are in a time of uncertainty and anxiety for many people. I personally don’t like the use of words like “unprecedented” to describe Covid-19. History shows this outbreak of a new virus to be a repetition of many events in the past. But this does not alter the seriousness of the present. Those of us who claim to find our comfort in knowing and being known by Jesus Christ ought to live like the comfort we have.

What might your life be like if the perfect love of God has cast out all your fears?

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