Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Who is Paul?

Birth and Training

Paul was born as Saul in Tarsus. He was a pure bred Israelite of the Tribe of Benjamin. Gamaliel was a very famous teacher under which he studied. Rising quickly ahead of his peers, he became a Pharisee of Pharisees.

He must have been an independent thinker as well because he differed with Gamaliel on how to deal with the members of “The Way.” He felt justified in zealously persecuting the members of “The Way” by stoning them to death because of the account of Phinehas in Num 25:6-11.

6 And indeed, one of the children of Israel came and presented to his brethren a Midianite woman in the sight of Moses and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. 7 Now when Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose from among the congregation and took a javelin in his hand; 8 and he went after the man of Israel into the tent and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her body. So the plague was stopped among the children of Israel. 9 And those who died in the plague were twenty-four thousand.

10 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 11 "Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned back My wrath from the children of Israel, because he was zealous with My zeal among them.

Gamaliel took a different approach.

Acts 5:33-39

34 Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while. 35 And he said to them: "Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. 36 For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed. 38 And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; 39 but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it — lest you even be found to fight against God."


Indeed, that is exactly what Paul found himself doing on the road to Damascus. Blinded by a light and hearing the voice of the risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Paul becomes a believer. His eyes are opened by Ananias and then Paul goes into a period of study that lasted 3 years. I think that he went by himself, guided by the power of the Holy Spirit, and reread the scriptures he had so adamantly been studying all his life. This time he read them with new eyes. This time he was able to understand that the scriptures prove that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. When Paul finally met up with the Apostles, they had nothing to add to his message.


Paul wrote 14 books of the New Testement from Romans to Philemon. Paul’s message is spelled out in the theme verses of Romans. Rom 1:16-17

For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes — Jews first and also Gentiles. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, "It is through faith that a righteous person has life."

This salvation by faith is a great deviation from what the Pharisees believed. They felt that they were assured salvation because “Abraham was their father.” Matt 3:9.

Paul’s message is sometimes thought to be contradicted by James’ message.

Rom 3:28

8 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.

James 2:19-20

You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe — and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?

Sounds contradictory doesn’t it. James is not putting forth a faith plus works theology. James is defining what kind of faith one must have. There is a faith that has head knowledge of a truth and then there is a faith that causes one to change his ways.

Name Change

When Paul first began to teach, he would go to the synagogues and talk with the Jews. But after being rejected so much, he felt it was his place to take the message to the gentiles. This is when the name change came about. It is not the same kind of change like Abram to Abraham or Jacob to Israel. Those names were actually changes from one to the other. Saul to Paul was more of a cultural name change. Like someone named Jacque coming to live in the states and now going by the name James. It is the same name in two different cultures. It is not like Saul has a Jesus experience and Jesus changes his name, like what happened to Abram and Jacob.

Discourse on Israel

Romans 9-11 gives a full discourse on the fate of Israel, but the highlights are: For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved. Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. And so all Israel will be saved.

Servant Leadership

We as Christians are called to be servants. We are also called to be leaders. The two come together in the concept of servant leadership. My definition of a servant leader is a leader whose purpose is to serve those who follow him/her. Two stories in the bible strike me with their example of servant leadership. Then I have an experience to share with you about application of servant leadership.

Example 1. In Genesis chapter 13 we have the story of Abram and Lot living together. Abram is the leader of the clan, but when both Abram and Lot became too numerous for the land to support, quarrelling broke out between the two clans. (This is now my paraphrase of the story; I will add stuff for the sake of emphasis. It did not actually happen quite this way.) Abram being the leader summons Lot to his office. He explains the situation to Lot and informs Lot of Abram’s decision that the two must separate. Since Abram is the leader then Abram gets to choose, who goes where. Abram’s choice is to let Lot decide.

You will notice, Lot does not reciprocate on the generosity of Abram. Lot looks at the options and takes the best land. Abram does not get upset and renig on his generous offer. He does not take away Lot’s right to decide. He allows Lot to take the best land. God does, in this case, settle the score Himself. He blesses Abram’s clan and sattles Lot with Sodom and Gomorrah.

Example 2. John chapter 13 tells us, Jesus knew He had come from the Father and was going back to the Father so He wrapped a towel around His waist and washed the disciples’ feet. Imagine that. Jesus knowing that He is God and knowing that He was headed to the cross for the redemption of mankind: does an incredible act of servitude for the diciples. Not, hey give me glory for who I am and what I am about to do. No. Just another selfless and humble act of service. Servant Leadership demonstrated to the maximum, in my humble opinion.

Experience. The Evangelism Committee decided to do a random act of kindness in the name of Jesus. We went to a local park on a Saturday morning and handed out water bottles for free to the walkers, joggers, and runners. We did so in the name of Jesus not in the name of our church. Those who stopped to talk with us usually asked us what church we were from, so we did get to advertise our church as well.

One gentleman came by and said he was not interested in buying water. We told him it was our free gift to him with no obligations. He lit up like a Christmas tree. He went on and on about how great it was for us to give up our Saturday morning and hand out water to strangers. He was very thirsty and greatly appreciated the drink. He went on his way around the park path. While he was gone our leader decided to take some pictures of the group. As he reapproached our area, he noticed our leader getting ready to take the picture. He rushed up and energetically offered his “service” to take the picture so that the leader could be in it also. The leader kindly refused to let him take the picture. He made another plea to help, emphasizing that the leader needed to be in the picture too. The leader adamantly refused the help. The man was crestfallen. You could just see all the energy and enthusiasm that was in him disappear. He left us in a more depressed state than when he came upon us at first. All the good we had done was undone and more by the leader refusing to allow him to serve us.

The moral to the story is that while we are servants, we must also not be above being served. Therefore, if someone offers you their service for something we should find a way to accept it, so that they may be servants of Jesus Christ to us.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Praying Continuously

In 1 Thess 5:16-18 Paul tells us to: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

What is prayer without ceasing?

I define praying continuously as a mindset that believes that every thought, action and word is done in relationship to Jesus Christ. So that when you are at work you should “work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” Eph 6:7 This then would qualify as praying continuously.

Praying continuously is paying attention to where your mind goes at all times. Joyce Meyer calls it “The Battlefield is the Mind.” We should “bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Cor 10:5

How can I accomplish this?

I have some benchmarks along the path to help me remember this is what I am suppose to be doing. The first one I came up with was turning on the hourly chime on my watch. Every hour, on the hour, it reminds me that I am a child of God and that my thoughts, actions and words need to reflect this reality. I was initially concerned with what I would tell people if they ask me why my chime is ON. Now, I have grown into wanting them to ask me. I have had it on for 6 years now and only 2 people have asked.

Next, I began to place other things like stop lights and stop signs as reminders. One day I asked the Lord how do I “fill in” the places between the benchmarks? The answer came into my mind, not words in my ears, just a thought. Music. So I began to memorize music and sing songs to God when my mind was not needed to be otherwise “employed.” On my trip to Africa I found this to be a common practice. When we were not in conversation with our African friends I would notice that they were almost always singing to themselves.

In “Practicing the Presence of Christ” by Brother Lawernce, you will find that he was singing while his mind was otherwise “employed.” I haven’t got to that level yet.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Six Questions

There are six questions that you may hear often that you should have a prepared answer. Remember, you will not convince or convict anybody of the Truth that Jesus is the Christ with these answers. That is the job of the Holy Spirit. Your job is merely to be a witness to the Light. If you are prepared for these questions then you will be a good witness and the Holy Spirit will have some seeds with which to work.

These answers are merely “my” answers and are therefore brief and incomplete. You may use them to build your own personal answers or find or develop completely different answers.

  1. What language was the Bible originally written in? (Used as a setup question for number 2.)

The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and Aramaic. The New Testament was written in Greek although Jesus and his disciples spoke Hebrew and Aramaic as well. In the third century B.C. the O.T. was translated into Greek by 72 elders. It was called the Septuagint. Church father Jerome produced the official Latin version in 340-420 A.D. This is called the Vulgate meaning the Bible of the common people. In the 1500’s Martin Luther translated the Bible into German and William Tyndale translated the Bible into English (the forerunner of the KJV).

  1. With all those translations, isn’t the Bible full of errors?

Some differences do exist between manuscripts with some translations containing what I would call outright errors. KJV includes the word “corn” 102 times. KJV was written in 1611 just after the explorers had returned from the new world with corn for the first time. The correct translation should read “grain.” Does this error contradict the essential message of the Bible that we need a Savior and Jesus Christ who is God Himself is that Savior. I think not.

  1. Can’t I just try to be as good as I can and hope that God finds me good enough to go to heaven?

The Bible is clear on this. Nobody is good enough “for all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God.” Romans 3:23 Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6. A man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. Gal 2:16.

  1. What about the Jews?

Romans 9-11 gives a full answer but the highlights are: For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved. Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. And so all Israel will be saved.

  1. Just saying you believe isn’t good enough for salvation. I see Christians behaving the same way I do, so what it is the difference?

This is exactly James’ point. James is not giving a new doctrine of Faith plus works. He is defining what type of Faith saves. Even the demons believe (believe=faith) but it does them no good. A faith that produces a change in you toward the righteousness of God and is therefore evident in your works is the faith that saves. So just believing doesn’t save, but allowing that belief to change you into His image does save.

Oh, and by the way, what other people profess and how they behave is not the right question. The question is Who do you say that Jesus is and what are you going to do about it?

  1. Isn’t it very arrogant to think that Christianity is the only way to heaven?

John 14:6 says it clearly. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” For if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing! Gal 2:21 Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Matt 26:39. Since the cup was not taken from Him, I must conclude that there is no other way for our salvation.

I think the arrogant statement would be, “I can get to God on my own. I don’t need the sacrifice that Jesus made for me.”

Six Words

When I first started reading the Bible for myself, I was told that I would need a Bible Dictionary, an English Dictionary, and a Bible Commentary to help me read. I thought that was silly and I was just going to read it for myself and understand it for what it plainly says. Well, I was wrong. I have been surprised how many times I have felt the need to go consult all of the above sources. There are definitely some words in the Bible that need to be defined in order to accurately understand what is being said. My top six words that need to be understood are Faith, Death, Salvation, Angel, Hell, and Soul.

Faith: “Faith” and “believe” pretty much mean the same thing. So when you see one word you can pretty much replace it with the other. We are told that we must “believe in the name of God’s one and only Son.” John 3:18. “We are justified by faith in Christ.” Gal 2:16. But what do these two words mean? I think a “saving faith” is best defined as “trust.” The essence of Christianity is that we can not save ourselves, but that we need a Savior. So we must admit that we can’t save ourselves, but TRUST that Jesus will save us. There is also a “faith that does not save.” It is merely an acknowledgement of the truth.

Death: This means “separation,” not extinction. Physical death is the separation of the body from the spirit. (James 2:26) Spiritual death is the separation of a person from God. (Eph 2:1) The second death is eternal separation from God. (Rev 20:14) Death to sin is separation of a person from the ruling power of sin in their life. (Rom 6:6-7, 14)

Salvation: I used to think that salvation meant, “I get to go to heaven when I die.” Well, that is part of the salvation meaning. Salvation actually has three facets: a past salvation from the penalties of sin, a present salvation from the power of sin, and a future salvation from the presence of sin. The $10 words that apply to these three are: Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification. Since Justification happened when we accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and Glorification will happen when we meet Jesus Christ face to face, then our focus should be continually on the Process of Sanctification.

Angel: This word is used in three different ways. Sometimes angel refers to God (Acts 7:38), sometimes to men (Rev 2:1) and sometimes to spiritual beings (Luke 1:26.) So when you see this word, you should not think immediately of “spiritual being also created by God,” but read the supporting material around the word to get its appropriate meaning.

Hell: There are four words that get translated as hell in English. 1. Sheol: This is a Hebrew word used throughout the Old Testament. It moves between the ideas of the grave, the underworld and the state of death. 2. Hades: This is a Greek word used in the New Testament that denotes the same ideas as Sheol. 3. Gehenna: This is a valley outside of Jerusalem where children were sacrificed by fire in connection with pagan rites. It was used in Jesus’ day as a place where they burned trash. This word was used by Jesus and James to invoke the idea of the Lake of Fire. 4. Tartarus: This word is used only once. Peter used it in 2 Peter 2:4 to denote the place where God has sent some of the angels that rebelled. It is best thought of as an abyss of some sort.

Soul: In order to determine the difference between soul and spirit, it is helpful to look at the concept of the composition of man. There are two main theories: the two-part man and the three-part man.

The two-part man

This theory says that man is made up of a body and a spirit and together the two make a soul. This is actually a very convincing statement when you consider the literal meanings of the words translated into English as soul and spirit. The Greek and Hebrew words for soul both mean “has life.” Any living thing then is a soul, because it is alive. Man therefore does not have a soul, man is a soul. When the spirit leaves the body, death occurs and the soul no longer exists. The spirit goes to God and the body goes to dust. When the resurrection happens then the spirit comes from God and is reunited with the resurrected body and the soul exists again. The word “death” means separation. Add to this the literal meaning of spirit, which is “breath” or “wind” and the concept sounds perfect. The “breath” leaves the body and death occurs.

I have two problems. First, the concepts of “has life” and “breath” do not account for the conscious person or the persons “personality.” What is it that “goes to God?” So the spirit must be more than just “breath.” Here it becomes obvious that we are using human words with literal meanings to define things that are unseen and/or unknown. So using the literal meaning to answer the question is In My Humble Opinion (IMHO) useless. Second, the bible says that man is made in the image of God. God is three-in-one so IMHO man must be three-in-one as well.

The three-part man

This theory says that man is made up of a body, a soul, and a spirit. The Pentecostals have determined that the literal definitions of these words are not sufficient. They have continued to use these words as they are biblical and traditional, but they have changed their definitions. The new definitions attempt to define that unseen and/or unknown part of man. They define the soul as “the mind, will and emotions.” They define the spirit as “the inner most part of a person; that part through which God speaks to us.”

As you could well assume, I do like this theory better because it solves both of the problems of the two-part man. However, I think there is room for improvement on this theory. Take the idea of “the inner most part of a person.” Doesn’t that sound like a person’s personality? What is a person’s personality, if not his wants and not wants; his likes and his dislikes? So, I think it would be better to define the soul as “the mind” and the spirit as “the will and emotions?”

Biological man

Let’s leave the spiritual composition of man for a moment and see what the biology teacher has for us. We are aware that we have a body, a mind, and a sub-conscious mind. The sub-conscious mind is aware of everything in the body and does many things for us without our conscious involvement. I don’t think anybody disagrees with this image of man.

So if we line these two up we see that body=body, soul=mind, and spirit=sub-conscious mind.


I use that word “hum?” intentionally because it is the exact response my pastor had when I presented this idea to him. I suspect he hasn’t given it a second thought since.

If nothing else, it is an interesting idea. Play with it, mull it around and then throw it away. Just be sure to Glorify Jesus Christ as you go.

What the Authors meant by Soul and Spirit

So when you read the bible, can you just replace the word soul with mind and spirit with subconscious mind and then understand what the author is trying to say? NO! The authors of the bible (most of the time) use the words soul and spirit interchangeably. They are almost always talking about “that inner most part of you, the part through which God speaks to us.” But when you see phrases like “heart, mind, soul, and strength” or “body, soul, and spirit,” then understand those phrases to mean “all of you who are.” Now you will understand what the authors are trying to say.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Gospels and Numerology Run Amuck


I found a chart once that shows the Gospels at a glance. If you memorize these 16 words then you can recall the big picture of the Gospels quickly.

Author Genealogy Audience Portrays Jesus as

Matthew Joseph’s Jews The Messiah
Mark None Romans A Servant
Luke Mary’s Gentile A Man
John None Everyone God

Matthew wrote to the Jews and included Joseph’s genealogy because the Jews were looking for a Messiah that came from the line of Judah. The genealogy would be a very important piece of evidence to them. He demonstrates then, with much Old Testament prophecy, that Jesus is the Messiah.

Mark wrote to the Romans who were not looking for a Messiah, but instead respected people who were powerful. Therefore, no genealogy is necessary. Mark shows Jesus doing things, powerful things. The word immediately is used frequently. Jesus did these powerful things in the service of others and not for self glorification.

Luke wrote to the Greeks, which is where Luke came from. He gives the genealogy that leads to Mary and his focus is on the humanity of Jesus. Luke was the only non-Jew to write any of the New Testament.

John writes to everyone and shows Jesus to be God. Since God came before everyone else then no genealogy need be given.


Throughout the Bible some numbers are used to symbolize different things.

3 – The Trilogy (Father, Son and Holy Spirit)
4 – The Earth (4 major points on the compass, 4 seasons)
6 – Evil
7 – Perfection


The above information is very much accepted as truth by Theologians around the world. What I am about to show you is very much my own insanity and not accepted by anyone of any intelligence anywhere as truth; nor should it be. This is just fun stuff here of no significance whatsoever.

I was trying to memorize how many chapters in each book of the Bible. I was in search of memory tricks when I noticed some things.

Matthew has 28 chapters. That is 7 times 4. Applying the numerology that means “perfect for the earth.” What would be more perfect for the earth than a Messiah? Hum?

Mark has 16 chapters. That is 4 times 4. I interpret as “of the earth for the earth.” That could very well describe a servant. Hum?

Luke has 24 chapters. That is 6 times 4; meaning, “evil of the earth.” Sounds like man to me. Hum?

And my personal favorite and soon to be yours is:

John has 21 chapters. That is 7 times 3; meaning “Perfect God!”

Intentional, Coincidence or Insanity? You decide.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Preparatory Grief

I accidently stumbled onto an idea that has evidently been around for quite some time. It needs to be more widely spread because it works.

I began to thank God every night and every morning for my life and the life of my family. I don’t remember the reason why I felt I needed to do this but I did. I would acknowledge that today may be the last day for me or for any of my family because there are no guarentees to how long each of us shall be here. Ps 139:16 In Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.

Then one day our youngest was stricken by a virus that put him in the ICU for two weeks. There was some serious doubt that he would live through this experience. The whole time I had a strange peace about the whole thing. It was OK with me if he lived and it was OK with me if he lived with Jesus. Either way was fine. I could only attribute this presence of peace to the practicing of thankfullness each day.

After our son came home, I ran into our Pastor and told him about this “technique” I had discovered. He laughed and said, “Ah yes, preparatory grief. We have known about it for years.” The idea, I guess, is that everyone will go through a grieving process. By being thankful everyday you spread this grief out over a long period of time. Therefore, not having it hit you all at once.

I noticed that even Yoda in Star Wars III was aware of preparatory grief. He councelled young Aniken; “You must begin to train yourself to let go of what you are afraid to lose.”

So we must also train ourselves to believe that all that we have is actually God’s and they/it are only on loan to us for a short time. Be thankful for the time with them/it. So that when they/it are gone, we will not be crushed by grief. Surprised and saddened, yes indeed, but crushed, no way.

Praise be to God.

Monday, May 08, 2006

How to Know Your Purpose in Life

This is another one of those questions that gets a lot of attention and yet few people (if any) ever give me an answer I like. Through the course of study the Holy Spirit has given me an answer that I do like. I hope it is helpful to you.

I had this question on my mind and was just doing my normal Bible reading and along came the verses that hold the answer to this question for everybody. Matthew 22:37-40. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…Love your neighbor as yourself. (NOW WATCH THIS FINISH, EVERYBODY STOPS QUOTING RIGHT HERE BUT JESUS FINISHES WITH A STATEMENT THAT SHOWS HOW MUCH WEIGHT HE GIVES TO THESE COMMANDMENTS) All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commands.

What does “the Law and the Prophets” mean? This is a term used to describe the Jewish Bible, which is the same as our Old Testament with the books arranged in a different order. The only “scripture” in existence at the time Jesus said it.

Jesus uses this terminology in another verse which actually defines “Love your neighbor” for us. Matthew 7:12. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, for this is the sum of the Law and the Prophets.

Simply put, your purpose in life is to Glorify God by reflecting His love to everybody in your little corner of the world.

Ah! You knew that already? So maybe you weren’t asking the correct question. Maybe instead of asking “What is my purpose?” you really meant to ask “Which little corner of the world does God want me to go?” Other ways the question could be phrased, “Which school should I attend?” or “Which job should I take?” or “Who should I marry?” or “What is my mission field?” etc.

Well I have a clue as to how to answer those types of questions as well. I witnessed two events that gave me a clue as to how to answer these questions.

First, our Minister to Children is married to a Chaplain. Before they had kids, the Chaplain was not a big fan of the nursery. One Sunday morning our Minister to Children was so desperate for help in the nursery that she went to her husband and asked him to help. His reply was very telling. He said, “Please put me in the emergency room with the parents of a dying child, before you put me in the nursery.”

Yes, that is very funny, but it also tells you where his “love” is. What his heart’s desire is.

Second, we had a couple from our church get jobs as missionaries to Kiev, Ukraine working with the street children. During the last Sunday School lesson that the husband taught before they left, he made this comment. “I can’t think of anything more exciting or rewarding than going to Kiev and working with street children.” Of course my response was, “I can’t think of anything worse.”

These two guys are totally in love with God and God put a love in their hearts for what it is He wants them to do.

So my theory became: Fall in love with God and then do what you love. St. Augustine said it this way. “Love, then do as you please. For when you have learned to love you will not even desire to do things that might offend the One you love.”

WARNING, WARNING, WARNING!!! Do not fail to fall in love with God first. Do not just go running to the “do what you love” part. If you fail to fall in love with God first, then “doing what you love” will lead you into big trouble!

How do I fall in love with God? In the same way you do with people. You talk with them. You listen to them. You make their concerns, your concerns. Their likes become your likes. Their dislikes become your dislikes.

So we talk to God, which is what prayer is. We listen to God by reading His word. We allow the Holy Spirit to recreate us into His image. Meaning, His likes become our likes and His dislikes become our dislikes.

When we focus on loving God, then God will put a love in our heart to do what He wants us to do, go where He wants us to go, and minister to whomever He wants us to minister.

OK, there is still a group of you who are saying, “but I do that and I still don’t have a love for one choice over the other. So what do I do now?”

Good question. I have two suggestions.

The first one is kind of silly but it works sometimes. This helps you to understand what your true feelings are. Flip a coin. Yep, I said flip a coin. Then pay attention to what your first response is to the answer the coin gives you. Sometimes your response is positive and sometimes your response is negative. Either way you are now more in tune with what your true feelings are on the choices.

Failing this, then pray that God will lead you to make the correct decision. You have then called on the name of the Lord. You did your part. Now pick one and go with confidence that God caused you to pick the right one. If things work out good, then give glory to God. If things don’t work out the way you had planned, then give glory to God. Either way, you called on the name of the Lord. Have confidence that something good was accomplished from the choice.

Just remember, if you live your life trying to obtain fairness and justice, then you will live a life of continual disappointment. If you live your life tring to give mercy and grace, then you will live a life of abundant opportunity.

Two Trees and the Problem of Evil

Two Trees

One of the interesting things that happens when you read the Bible for yourself is you find that the stories “as you remember being taught them in Sunday School” don’t always match up with what is written in the Bible. For me, one such misunderstanding is the story of the Garden of Eden. My understanding was that God made man and woman, put them in a garden, put a tree in the middle of the garden from which they could not eat, and when they did, He punished them by kicking them out of the garden.

If we look in Gen 2:9 we will see that there is not one tree of importance in the garden, but two trees. One is The Tree of Life and the other is The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Gen 2:16 is where God tells Adam not to eat of The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. So, The Tree of Life was available to eat from.

Let’s follow The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil for a minute. We next find it in Gen 3:1-6, which is the story of “the fall” (we will deal with “the fall” in a minute). Then in Gen 3:11 God asks them if they have eaten from this tree and lastly Gen 3:17 when God pronounces the punishment for eating from this tree. Near as I can find, The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil never appears anywhere in the Bible again. I will make the assumption that “it” no longer exists.

The Tree of Life, however, gets a bit more attention. The most notable is in Eze 47:12 and Rev 22:2. Both passages speak of this tree being in the New Jerusalem, standing on both sides of the river that comes from the Throne of God, bearing 12 crops of fruit, yielding the fruit every month and its leaves are for healing.

The fact that the fruit is yielded monthly leads me to speculate that we must eat from this tree regularly in order to sustain our human bodies for eternity. Whether we eat monthly or harvest monthly and eat daily, I don’t know. If this speculation is correct, then it has some implications on the Genesis story. Let’s return to Gen 3:22.

The Lord, God said, “The man has become like one of us, knowing good from evil” (not like God in power, but like God because we know good from evil). “He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from The Tree of Life and eat and live forever.” My speculation is then that one bite from The Tree of Life would not allow man to live for ever, but to be allowed to continuously eat from this tree would have allowed him to live forever. Thus an Angel is placed to keep them from eating from The Tree of Life and therefore they would surely die.

The Fall

Now let’s draw our attention to “the fall” in Gen 3:1-6. What is the actual sin committed by Adam and Eve? Their sin was more than merely eating forbidden fruit; it was disobeying the revealed word of God, believing the lie of satan, and placing their own wills above God’s. Notice that satan sprinkled some “truth” with some “lie” in order to deceive Eve. This is the same approach that satan used with Jesus. Jesus defeated satan by use of the Word of God. This is the same approach used by satan today, so we must know the Word of God ourselves.

The Truth of the Word will help us recognize “lies” when we hear them. What “lies” are going around today that sound good? How about: There is only One God but many ways to get to Him, so we need to be tolerant of everybody else’s religion. But the Word says that Jesus is the only way to God, for if the law (anybody’s law) could save, then Christ died for nothing. Galatians 2:21.

This is how sin entered the world and in verse Gen 3:7 they realized that they needed to cover it up, but they didn’t know the correct way to cover their sin. In Gen 3:21 God shows them the correct way to cover their sin. An animal had to die in order for their sin to be covered. I wonder how dramatically God did this for them. Did He just show up with garments and tell them an animal had to die? Or did He bring the animal in front of them so they could see the animal being killed, cleaned and a garment formed from its skin right in front of them? Who knows?

The Problem of Evil

We have become like God, not like God in power, but like God because we know good from evil. This phrase tells us that before the fall, Adam and Eve did not know good from evil. This along with many other verses has sparked a line of thinking that has led me to an answer for the problem of evil. I define the problem of evil as, “Why would a Good God allow evil to happen to His creation?”

I must caution that this is my line of thinking. I have never seen anyone answer the question this way. Nor have I seen anyone answer the question to my satisfaction. But this answer has given me great comfort and I pass it on to you in hope that it does the same for you. If not, at least you have something to think about. So put on your skeptic hat and go for an interesting ride with me as I answer “the problem of evil.”

Maybe there is something to the idea that you can’t truly know “good” unless you know “evil” (Gen 3:22). I am encouraged by C. S. Lewis who said, “the more you know Good the more you will know evil. The less you know good the less you will know evil.”

Maybe we have problems seeing the logic of “a Good God allowing evil to happen to His creation” because we think that it is all about us. What if it is bigger than that? What if God is drawing the angels He created closer to Him (which is pure Goodness) by letting them “know” evil through our experiences. Eph. 3:10

But in His great mercy He is not making them all “experience” evil. His great mercy is limiting evil to this small planet for a short period of time and for this specific purpose: so that the riches of His Glory may be known to the objects of His mercy. Rom 9:23.

My line of reasoning

God created angels. Col 1:15,16
God gave angels freewill. Jude 6
Some angels chose evil. Jude 6, Isaiah 14:13-14
Those angels were either confined to the abyss (Jude 6) or to earth. Isaiah 14:12, John 12:31, Eph 2:2


God created man. Gen 1:26-31
God gave man freewill. Gen 3:5-7
Man chose evil. Gen 3:5-7
Man is separated from God. Isaiah 53:6, Romans 3:23

Therefore God is recreating on earth what has already happened in the angelic world.

A petrie dish of sorts because there are many more angels than humans. Heb 1:14, Matt 18:10, KJV Heb 12:22

He is allowing a battle between good and evil to rage on this earth. Eph 6:12

The angels are witnesses (Heb 12:1) to this but do not have to “experience the battle.”

The angels are at war 1) Michael helps angel in battle with the prince of persia. Dan 10:13
2) Michael battles the devil over Moses’ body. Jude 9

But angels don’t “experience” torture, mutilation, terror, rape, or loss of love ones, etc.

At some point God will remove all good from this earth (rapture, pretribulation view) 1 Thess 4:17 and show what is the natural consequences of evil. Rom 6:23

The earth will then come to a point where if those days had not been cut short, no one will survive. Matt 24:22

Therefore God allowing evil to exist in this world is just as logical as humans doing experiments on animals to find knowledge that will benefit all humanity.

Man’s reward for going through this battle of good vs. evil is to be judges of angels (1 Cor 6:3); to be the bride of Christ. Rev 19:7

So my ultimate conclusion is God is not simply allowing evil to happen to His creation, but God is using evil to accomplish a greater good. God is drawing the angels He created closer to Him (which is pure Goodness) by letting them “know” evil through our experiences. Eph. 3:10. But in His great mercy He is not making them all “experience” evil.

I grant you that I do not have a full answer here. I assure you that my eye has not seen, nor has my ear heard, nor has my mind concieved what God has prepared for those who love Him. But, if I can come up with one reason for God allowing evil to exist then I am assured that the Master has even more and greater reasons than I can understand. My trust remains firmly and fully in Jesus.

A Triune God

We have talked about how the name of God “Elohim” in Gen 1:1 allows for the New Testament revelation of the Trinity of the Godhead. Also, the use of the words “us” and “our” in verses like, “Let us make man in our image” agrees with this revelation. Even though the Old Testament and the New Testament are in agreement with this doctrine you will probably still run into opposition to this doctrine. Universalists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Mormons will strongly oppose this doctrine.

There is an easy to remember argument that you can make. Be confident in the truthfulness of the argument but also be aware that there are ready made answers using twisted interpretation. You don’t need to memorize the supporting verses, but reading over them to give you confidence of what the Bible says is helpful.

This argument says: When I read the Bible I see the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit involved in the Creation, the Baptism, the Resurrection, the Great Commission, in our Justification, in our Sanctification, and all of them live “in” us.

Event Father Son Holy Spirit
Creation Gen 1:2 Col 1:16 Gen 1:2
Baptism Luke 3:21 Luke 3:21 Luke 3:21
Resurrection Acts 3:26 John 2:19 Rom 8:11
Great Commisson Matt 28:19 Matt 28:19 Matt 28:19
Justified/Santified 1 Cor 6:11 1 Cor 6:11 1 Cor 6:11
Lives “in” us Eph 4:6 Col 1:27 Rom 8:11

I have never convinced anyone with this argument but at least I have an answer. Also interesting to note, people who don’t believe in the Trinity will agree with all the verses of the Father, but not the Son or Holy Spirit verses. So they have to twist at least 12 verses (there are many others) into meaning something other than what they plainly say. They have to work very hard to support what they want it to mean, while the doctrine of the Trinity is supported in the plain language.

Some other verses that support the Diety of Jesus are: John 5:19; 10:30-33; 17:5; 20:28; Romans 9:5; Phil 2:5-6; Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Names of God

There is a large amount of information on the Names of God. I will merely scratch the surface enough for you to be able to determine which name of God is being used and why it is important to know the names of God.

There are two Hebrew names from which most of the names of God are built. The first is El. Meaning God. I think its use is much the same as 21st Century America uses “God.” It is generic and can mean anything that the user wants it to mean: such as Mother Nature, a cosmic force, or the sum of all peoples love, etc. So the Hebrews were very inclined to add a suffix to the name in order to define which God they were talking about. The word for God used in Gen 1:1 is Elohim meaning “strong one”. The form of the word is plural, indicating plentitude of power and majesty. The word could be translated as the plural of majesty. So one could say Gen 1:1 says, “In the beginning the Majesties created…”

Anyone see a problem here? The Hebrews believed in One True God. Moses is the hero of the Hebrew people and Moses wrote a plural form for the word God in the beginning. As one theologian put it to me, “They didn’t understand it, but they knew better than to change it.” The important thing to note here is that the word allows for the New Testament revelation of the Trinity of the Godhead.

For the purposes of a simple layperson anytime you see the word God by itself you can assume the Hebrew word used is Elohim. Not totally accurate but close enough as all names are talking about the same God. Other compounds are actually spelled out in the text. El Elyon for instance means God Most High. Look at Gen 14:22 and you will see “God Most High” in the text. So you don’t really need to know that it is El Elyon, just be aware that whatever Hebrew word was used it means “God Most High.”

The second base compound word is YHWH. This is the word the Hebrews valued so highly that they would not pronounce it. While reading the scriptures the Hebrews would pause when reaching the YHWH and then say “Adonai.” We put vowels in the word making it Yahweh and have no problem pronouncing it. The meaning of the YHWH is “I am that I am.” The name first appears in the second chapter of Genesis so was well known to the Hebrew people when passed down from generation to generation in their oral tradition. When God revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush, this is the name He called Himself so the Hebrews knew exactly who had sent Moses.

The YHWH is translated into English as LORD. Notice the capital letters. When there are compound names associated with it like YHWH Jireh (or Jehovah Jirah from the Greek) then once again the whole meaning is translated into the English. Look at Gen 22:14. You will see imbedded into the verse “The LORD Will Provide”. It is not a sentence, it is a name. Notice all the capital letters. Again, you don’t really need to know that it is YHWH Jireh, just be aware that whatever Hebrew word was used it means “The LORD Will Provide.”

The last word you need to know is Adonai. Adonai is translated as Lord. Notice the lack of capital letters. The most famous use of this is in Psalm 110:1. “The LORD says to my Lord…” In English this looks rather silly, but with your new found knowledge you now know to read it, “YHWH says to Adonai…” This is another Old Testament allowance for One God in multiple Persons.

Now that the surfaced is scratched we ask, Why do I need to know the names of God? Look at John 3:18. You will see imbedded in the verse a command to “believe in the name…” What does it mean to believe in the name? The names, as you have seen, have meanings. You need to believe what the names are telling you. So which name does John 3:18 tell us to believe in? “… in the name of God’s one and only Son.” Which leads us to ask, what does the name Jesus Christ mean?

Matt 1:1 leads off with the name of Jesus Christ. The notes of your Study Bible tell you that Jesus is from Jeshua which means “the Lord is salvation.” Christ means “anointed one.” So we must believe that Jesus Christ is “the Lord is salvation” and “the anointed one.”

So what’s in a name? Now you know.