Immigration

In the next few months the president and Congress will be undertaking immigration reform. It is imperative that the American people understand the complexity of this issue and its importance. It is obvious that the subject has been neglected for years because of the partisan politics involved. Both parties are competing for the large block of immigrants coming into the country and big business is putting pressure on the government to leave the borders open so they can have an endless surplus of cheap labor. Neither group, the politicians or the corporations are thinking about the long-term effects of mass immigration on the United States. Watch the below video it will blow your mind about immigration.

Reason, Faith and Certitude

Reason, Faith and Certitude

“From about half-past ten in the evening until about half-past twelve … FIRE … God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, and not of the philosophers and savants. Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy. Peace.”[i] Blaise Pascal

Reason will never take you to the certitude of God.  If it’s pure, which it never is, it regularly leads to doubting.  On the other hand, love will always lead to trust (faith) and acting on faith will lead to certitude.  However, in the end certitude is a gift of God, given to those who love Him and have true faith in the Christ.  The apostle John says, “He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son” ( 1 John 5:10).  In chapter  two of his letter John refers to this inner witness as an anointing of truth.

Moreover, Jesus also speaks about faith as a revelation from the Father.  When he asked his disciples who they believed he was, in Matthews gospel, the conversation reads like this; “Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:16-17).  This inner witness that Jesus speaks about is the revelation in the believer’s heart through the spirit of God, which gives them certitude that Jesus is the Christ.  It is this revelation in the believers heart that is the rock on which Christ would build his church[ii].  This measure of faith cannot be accessed by reason alone or any human effort.  It is a gift of God given to all true believers.  It is being born from above.  It is given to all who truly put their faith in the Christ and love God.  It is for the pure in heart

This inner witness, that Jesus is the Christ, is not the same as the promise which Jesus made to his apostles that they will be led into all truth (John 14:16).  The all truth promise was made to his apostles who form the foundation of the new temple of God (Eph 2:19-22).  The early church looked to the apostles as the ultimate authority in matters of the faith and except for a few Gnostics heretics, never claim, “the all truth promise”.. It is obvious, that if every Christian had received “the all truth promise” there would have been total unity and no division in the church from the beginning, to which we know there is, and therefore was not the case.  Plus there would have been no need for the first-century church to ask the apostles questions about the faith, as we see early Christians do in the New Testament.  Many of the writings in the New Testament are made up of the apostles answering questions that were sent to them by individuals and churches.

From the above we gather that when John said, “all of you know the truth”, he was taking about the fact that believers had received through the gospel the revelation that Jesus was the Christ. (1John 2:20-21).  There is no reason to separate this faith experience from the acceptance of the gospel and hearing the word of God preached, for that Word or Gospel is the bearer of the Spirit. This simply means that if a person hears the good news preached and believes it, the Holy Spirit will confirm their faith in their heart that Jesus is the Christ resulting in a certitude giv

[i]  Pascal’s conversion experience was recorded on a small piece of paper and sewed into the inner lining of his coat and was found after his death. It read, “The year of grace 1654. Monday, 23 November, feast of Saint Clement. . . From about half-past ten in the evening until about half-past midnight. Fire. The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. Not of the philosophers and intellectuals. Certitude, certitude, feeling, joy, peace. The God of Jesus Christ. My God and your God. Forgetfulness of the world and everything except God. One finds oneself only by way of the directions taught in the gospel. The grandeur of the human soul. Oh just Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you. Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy. I have separated myself from him. They have abandoned me, the fountain of living water. My God, will you leave me? May I not be separated from him eternally. This is eternal life, that they may know you the one true God and J.C. whom you have sent. Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ. I have separated myself from him. I have run away from him, renounced him, crucified him. May I never be separated from him. One preserves oneself only by way of the lessons taught in the gospel. Renunciation total and sweet. And so forth.” (pp. 95-96

[ii] it is incorrect to assume that the rock was Peter or Peters faith. The rock is the revelation that Jesus is the Christ given to believers by the Holy Spirit.

Death and Dying

Death and Dying

Today people are so afraid and terrified of death that they refuse to talk about it or even think about it.  To them, as it was for Job of the Old Testament, death is the king of terror’s.  We often play language games to try to soften it by changing the word from death, to expiring or passing.  The atheist expires, the Christian passes.

No matter how you look at it death is a gateway, either into a new state of being, or non-being.  These are the only two possibilities.  For the believer it is a gateway into a new state of being, which allows them to live in a state of hope.  To the atheist or the materialist it is a gateway into non-being.  It is simply nonexistence as a living conscious being.  It is a return to the dust of the earth.  However, we know from science that nothing just stops existing.  Matter cannot be destroyed, it can only change.  The big question is, does consciousness go on?  The materialist says no, for to him there can be no consciousness apart from the physical brain. But if we asked the question what is consciousness, we come up with the answer that consciousness, in the end, is information and information can exist without the brain.  What about radio and television waves?  You could say they are information and once formed they will continue forever.

Dying is not death, it is the process by which we enter our new state of being or existence.  There is usually some pain associated with this process of dying as with birth.  In fact, we begin to die the day we begin to live.  Life and death seem to travel together on our journey through this life. It sometimes appears on the surface that death is the goal of life, but then for the Christian there is Jesus.

When it comes to the pain that is often associated with dying, the good news is that Gods grace has given us medication to lessen the physical pain.  There should be no severe pain in the dying process for most.  Unbelievers may say that man created the medication.  No, God made it, man discovered it and developed it.  However, if for some reason we must experience a painful death, fear not.  The Holy Spirit will help you to endure it and as you endure it, look past it to the joy that is before you, even as our Lord did.

In our culture aging and death is looked upon as a disease that medical science is supposed to cure, or as an enemy that is trying to kill us and must be destroyed.  This struggle against aging and death comes from mans rebellion against nature and the God of nature.  Humanity seems to be in rebellion against all the limits of God including death. Man will not accept death for he views it as the ultimate limit placed on man by God.  Therefore, as in the story of the fall, he is still trying to storm the gates of heaven to seize eternal life.  Yet at the gate, he stills finds the angel with the flaming sword, saying you cannot enter.  All this comes from man’s rebellion and his refusal to except his own mortality and his fallen state.  Once a person excepts that this is a fallen world and that Christ is the way out, death simply becomes the way out.  A way out into a better existence, a way out that we need not fear.  It simply becomes the next step towards eternity.

For the Christian, death is like departing on a journey from one place to another with a stop in between.  Let me explain, the Christian faith teaches that we reside in the body, but we are more than a body.  There is the inner man of the heart.  Both the apostles, Paul and Peter, refer to our body as a tent that we dwell in.  The apostle John also speaks of Jesus, as dwelling among us in the tabernacle or tent.

2 Corinthians 5:1-5

“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.  Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked.  For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.  Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”

2 Peter 1:13-15

“I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.”

John 1:14

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (literally in the Greek; tabernacle or tented among us), and we have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

The problem with understanding death begins with a miss-understanding of the nature of man.  Man is body, soul and spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23) and death is the separation of the spirit and soul of man from his body.  It is the Spirit that gives life and when the spirit departs, the body dies.  When the spirit departs it goes back to the God that gave it, or does it?

In the book of Ecclesiastes, the writer said, “I also said to myself, “As for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals.  Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both:  As one dies, so dies the other.  All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals.  Everything is meaningless.  All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust, all return.  Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?” (Ecclésiastes 3:18-22)

I don’t believe, that Solomon was saying that he did not  believe that the spirit of man continues after death.  He was simply saying there was no evidence.  He was not certain. The Hebrews believed in an afterlife but it was vague and fuzzy.  Of course, the human mind thinks in pictures and to grasp something of the afterlife, which is  based on our present experience, we must use a picture of a places, made up of other places or parts of places, that we have seen.  That afterlife place for the Hebrews was given the name of Sheol, or literally the place of the unseen.  It was in Hebrew thinking a dark and foreboding place.  This idea corresponds to Hades in the New Testament, which appears to be a waiting place for the final judgment and yet it does seem to  foreshadow the eternal state of a person, i.e. they have a knowledge of their final destiny.

However, in the New Testament it is still a fuzzy and vague place.  The most we know about it is seen in the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31).  This vagueness is probably due to the fact that it is only viewed as a temporary stop on the way to eternity.  One thing about the place of the unseen does change in the New Testament.  In the New the righteous are in a state of bliss  while the evil  are in a place of torment.  This separation could have grown out of the belief that the righteous can never be separated from God and if God is with them somehow they cannot be in a place of evil or darkness  (Rom 8:28-39).

The next step into eternity will be the great wakeup call of the trumpet of God and the voice of the archangel announcing the end of time and the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.  At that time all of the dead in Hades will be resurrected with new immortal bodies.  Those who are still alive at his coming will  be transformed and given new spiritual bodies.  Then all men will stand before the great white throne  and be judged by what they did in their former bodies.

The resurrection and the judgment of God, mark God’s final word on sin and death.  Both are destroyed in the eternal lake of fire, which is a symbol of finality.

“Listen, I tell you a mystery.  We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.  When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

“Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ  (1 Corinthians 15:51-57).

Are There Contradictions In The Bible?

 Are There Contradictions In The Bible?

“There have been prophets and students who handle the Bible like a child’s box of bricks; they explain to us the design and structure and purpose; but as time goes on things do not work out in their way at all. They have mistaken the scaffolding for the structure, while all the time God is working out His purpose with a great and undeterred patience.” Oswald Chambers

 

The following article is based on the belief that God for the most part, does not give over- whelming evidence or proof of his existence in order to create faith[1].  The norm is that God hides or veils himself to protect mans free will.  God does this so that men might freely enter a love relationship with him without being mentally compelled by overwhelming proof.  God does not like shotgun weddings.

The answer to the question, “Are there contradictions in the Bible?”, would depend on a few things; one’s definition of contradictions and the way one looks at the Bible.  If a person approaches the Bible from a  particular point of view which  carries  certain human presuppositions, one could find what they might call contradictions.  However, from another point of view they might be called anomalies.[2]  One of these determining viewpoints is to approach the Bible as if it was totally divine; absolutely perfect, similar to the way we think of God.  This is the position of the fundamentalists of the 18th and 19th century and it was the view that the skeptics of the enlightenment know and rejected and attacked, and may I add, rightfully so.  It still is the view held by many fundamentalists and the skeptical educated class that criticizes the literalist and the Bible.  The sad thing is that for many in the educated class, it is the only view held and even known by most, making them as one dimensional as the fundamentalists whom they reject.

The problem with a fundamentalist view of the Bible is that it overlooks the Bible’s origin as being both human and divine.  In holding to this view fundamentalists approach the scriptures in a one-dimensional way; they often only look at the outward form and ignore the inward substance.  In my thinking, the scriptures should be viewed much the way we view Jesus, who was both human and divine.  Jesus the man (the outward form) could make mistakes, get sick, and hurt himself.  The Scriptures tell us that in every way He was human but without sin[3].  When skeptics say Jesus was a man they are right, they err when they say he was just a man.

You could say that God was hidden in the man Jesus and revealed himself gradually as God lifted the veil, showing his glory, or divine nature to the disciples.  Case in point is the wedding at Cana where Jesus turns water into wine and the scripture tells us, “He showed his glory.”  His resurrection from the dead was the final unveiling of his divine glory, and his transformation into something other than human.

As Jesus was very much like all men on one level, but on another level he was highly different. For example, when Jesus spoke things happened.  People’s lives were changed and they began seeing things on a new level of awareness.  Using this example the Bible is a lot like Jesus.  On one level (in its outward form) it is like other books.  However, on another level the Bible seems to have the ability to create faith and the power to change lives.  Like many books it seems to bear the spirit of its author, and its authority is based on that Spirit.

The difference between the Bible and other books is the Spirit that it bears; it is the spirit of Jesus Christ and his Father.  Jesus said, “My words are spirit and life.”  If you take the Spirit out of the scripture you no longer have the word of God but simply a book; a book that can do the very opposite of what it was intended to do, i.e. give faith and life to humanity.

Let’s make a comparison study with science.  Science is the study of the physical reality and has developed many theories about reality based on observation.  Most good theories are based on the best known knowledge at the time.  However, we need to remember that knowledge is human, which means it is imperfect and incomplete and is constantly changing.  In science when they come across some inconsistency, which seems to contradict their theory, they do not throw out the entire theory, but they set the irregularities aside and look at  them later, believing that when they have more knowledge they will be able to explain it.  These things set aside are often called anomalies[4].  Anomalies are pieces which seem to belong to the puzzle but at the time cannot be fit in.  When we are putting a jigsaw puzzle together we do not throw out every piece that does not immediately work.  No, we set them aside believing in faith they will fit later as we progress.  We often find that some pieces are so hard to fit we must wait until the very last minute to make them work.

Just imagine how hard it would be to put together a difficult puzzle without the completed puzzle picture on the box as a guide.  Trying to understand the Bible without having a picture passed down by the community of believers, is like trying to put together a puzzle without a picture.  To make things even harder just think if someone had mixed your puzzle up with another puzzle and you had bystanders telling you that there isn’t any picture and you should just give up.  This is exactly what is happing today.  People believe that they can put together the puzzle of the Bible without the picture and then when they get stuck they blame the puzzle (filled with contradictions) or they just quit giving up all hope of understanding it.

One of the views of the Bible that gets people into the puzzle predicament is approaching it with the idea that it is simple or easy to understand.  This idea has been propagated by many fundamentalists who often have an anti-intellectual point of view and other believers trying to get people to read their Bibles.  The truth is the Bible is as simple to understand as the one that it attempts to explain, i.e. God.  Then add the limits of our culture, language and our finite minds and you begin to see the problem.  However, this does not mean that you have to be a Bible scholar to understand it, but it does mean you must be diligent in your study and it might mean that you will have to ask an expert for some help to understand it.

You will not get to know the Bible by just reading it a few times and to be fair to the Bible, I would say that it would be very presumptuous to say that there’s contradictions in it when one does not know it and it author well[5].  Even if there are contradictions, those contradictions would have to be qualified.  One such qualification would be, does the Bible contradict itself or does our interpretation have contradictions in it?  I had one man tell me that he found a contradiction and when we turned to it, it was not God talking, but Satan.  You surely could not call the words of Satan God’s word, yet often in the Bible you find Satan’s words and the words of men mixed in with God’s word, for example, read the Book of Job.  How do you tell the difference? Very simply, know the context of the passage you are reading.  It is only after you know the textural and the cultural context that you are prepared to understand the text.

What does the Bible claim for itself?  It claims to be a sufficient guide to God.  It says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17).  In the work of growing and perfecting the soul it claims to be perfect (Ps 19:7).  I believe this because I have seen it in others and have experienced it myself.  When a person accepts the Scriptures as the bearer of God’s spirit the Scriptures will change their life.

We are back to the question, are there contradictions in the Bible?  My response is based on the above; you will find in the Bible what your worldview allows you to see and what you are looking for[6].  If you are looking for God you will find Him.  If you are looking for the human with all its contradictions, you will find that as well.  It all depends on your point of view, disposition and what you are looking for.

[1] In view of this it would be improbable for God to give us a book that is beyond question or criticism. Such a book would rob man of his free will and would in itself become an idol. Faith is like a hunch, a hunch becomes faith when you are willing to act on it.

[2] Anomalies are something that deviates from the norm or from expectations. In science what seem to be contradictions or inconsistencies are called anomalies.  In religion they are called errors or contradictions.  This is one example of the bias of the secular mind.

[3] For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. (Heb 2:17)

[4] All scientific theories have anomalies otherwise they wouldn’t be a theory but rather, a fact.  However, some theories have more anomalies than others, e.g. the theory evolution has far more problems to solve than some theories in physics.

[5] A proper understanding of the Bible only comes to the pure in heart, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God”. Therefore, seeking God begins with the heart and not the head.

[6] If you are looking through a dirty lens you will see dirt. “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matt 6:22-23).