Rid of Him
Happy Birthday Mr. Aurelius (9/9/219-10/275 CE
Roman emperor Aurelian was assassinated at 61 years of age. He ruled Rome during the Crisis years, occupying the throne from 270-275. He is credited for essentially saving Rome from its numerous hungry adversaries that threatened the empire on all sides and is the namesake of Orleans in France, and eventually New Orleans in Louisiana USA.
Alaric Watson, in his book Aurelius in the Third Century writes,
“As an administrator, he had been strict and had handed out severe punishments to corrupt officials or soldiers. A secretary of his (called Eros by Zosimus) had told a lie on a minor issue. In fear of what the emperor might do, he forged a document listing the names of high officials marked by the emperor for execution and showed it to collaborators. The notarius Mucapor and other high-ranking officers of the Praetorian Guard, fearing punishment from the emperor, murdered him.”
[Aurelian and the Third Century, 2004, New York: Psychology Press. p. 113-116.]
Maybe we should just get rid of God too. He is apparently going to punish all liars and sinners of all shades and has made a list which He may be checking twice.
“And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne. Then books were opened, and another book was opened – the book of life. So the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to their deeds.” Revelation 20:11-15
Political figures are run out of office by folks that fear their liberties are being erased despite great benefits restored under their leadership. A few cabinet administrators and some members of the royal guard got rid of Aurelius for fear of loss in their own lives.
“Yeah, Aurelias did some good things but he’s so…errgh(whatever)! If we can just manage to get rid of him, we can have things the way we want.”
From the beginning we have thought that way about God too. If we can get rid of Him, then maybe we can also get out from under the threat of punishment based upon His strict accounting.
Hmm, has this crossed my mind before?
The privileged saint by faith in Lord Jesus, thinks differently and has this to go by…
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help.” Hebrews 4:14-16
Don’t dismiss Him, embrace your loving God!
Grace today y’all
Absence of whoops
Inerrancy and the absence of whoops in Jesus’ assessment of the Old Testament.
Matthew 5:17-20 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
1. The Master’s intention (17)
To fulfill it is an impressive goal. I assume He meant both the precepts of the Law and the prophesies. Not only has nobody ever done it, making this claim to the ability to do it audacious, but only one is imagined to be able to and that one is their Messiah. Only one will match the requirements found wrapped up in the intricacies of the sacrifices to outperform the rallied hopes the former system fueled.
We might call Him a superman. If He can pull off fulfilling the Law in its details and slightest directives, then it would be like leaping over the tallest building. The impossibility of anyone other than Him accomplishing the fulfilment of the Law of Moses on this level of perfection led the Lord to say through the pen of the Apostle Paul,
“No flesh shall be justified by the works of the Law (Romans 3:20).”
2. The Master’s impression of the Law (18)
Not one jot or tittle, not one iota is to pass until all is fulfilled indicates He valued it all even to its finer point as the Law of God when it was first given to Moses and now just the same in the first century 1400 years later. Of course, this is His high view of Scripture as it consists in his day. His elevated view is also perceived in His warning to those that might try to diminish the Law and cause their children and students in university to think lightly about it. He regarded the force of the Law to be as potent then as it ever was. It had lost none of its relevance for the modern Jew, or for the world at large in search of the true nature of God and an accurate accounting of Him.
It would probably be helpful to the discussion on the question of inerrancy as it applies to modern translations in circulation today to note that the Old Testament version most likely in use by Jesus’ audience for this message was the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures from around about 200-130 BCE. It is also true that the Hebrew Scriptures themselves had undergone numerous rewrites or copies and errors were made, human errors such as what we now call typos. Copyists had strict rules to go by for their process, but errors are us and they occurred. Yet Jesus used the jot and tittle reference despite this and insisted we get past that issue and regard it - as He apparently did - insignificant to the question of inerrancy.
When it comes down to it, the bigger question to answer is whose word will we take as Gospel on the matter?
3. The Master’s indictment (20)
The Master’s indictment of us who may be judged under the justice of it appropriate anywhere in the world, is seen in His comparison using the Pharisees as His high mark. His representation of the Pharisees as achieving a high level of proficiency in keeping the Law of Moses means He perhaps regarded them as the best there is at it. He might have meant in His day for the sake of example for his contemporary audience, but maybe He means they rank up there with the best of the best ever. Anyway, they were impressive that way. The other inference in His words that is really more than mere inference, is that anyone who thought they needed to be perfect in keeping the Law to make it in the kingdom of God, every Jew’s happy hope, were going to be disappointed. To be more righteous, or using the wording in the text, to “have a righteousness that exceeds the righteousness of the Pharisees,” is set the bar so high in the view of the common Jew as to put it out of reach. The Pharisees were not, for all their effort and emphasis upon it perfecting the life-by-Law ticket themselves.
Is He pointing then to something, or someone else we should set our hope upon?
Here’s a clue or two…
"Now, apart from the Law a righteousness from God is disclosed... which is through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ..." Romans 3:21, 22 [NET]
“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh for sin…” Romans 8:3
[The flesh literally means our body, but metaphorically our human frailty prone to indulgence; Likeness to sinful flesh but without sin Himself - cf. Hebrews 4:16]
“For God loved the world in such a way as to give His unique son that whoever believes in Him should not die without hope but have everlasting life.”
John 3:16 [paraphrasing mine]
Enjoy your Bible with an absence of whoops
Grace today y'all
Bad dad good instruction?
“When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother, he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live. Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you.” Proverbs 4:3-6
Solomon offers us a peek into his early childhood relationship with his dad King David of Israel. Solomon was the first surviving son of David with Bathsheba. His choice of words seems to favor his dad’s attempts to pass along to him some good instruction infused with a strong emphasis on gaining wisdom.
Something at first Solomon was apparently keen to do.
As far as the wisdom of Solomon goes, he was gifted a special amount in reward for his humility and lack of material greed. He was renowned for it. His attitude would change though because over the span of 40 years as the power of his position wore down his resistance to temptation his capacity for wise choices slacked.
“He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods.” I Kings 11:4-8
His dad had suffered something similar, even though throughout his life he was said to have been in tune with the heart of God. It can happen to all of us and usually does when we finally achieve some sense of power in the little kingdom we rule over.
David had a few, okay several wives prior to Bathsheba and a mistress to warm him in his old age. Not nearly so many as Solomon who seemed to do whatever he did to some extreme. I suppose I am inclined to judge David more harshly than I should. Solomon once quipped, “Two are better than one, because… if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?” Ecclesiastes 4:9-11
The Lord had warned the kings of Israel not to collect wives, even those of the household of other kings for the sake of international relations, because they would turn their heads away from Him. But, as we know so well,
“There is a way that seems right to a person – a king – but the end of it is the way of dying and death,” so “Keep your heart with all diligence because from it springs the water of life.”
Proverbs 14:12; 4:23 [rendition mine]
How we keep our hearts as dads makes a whole lotta difference when it comes down to the available content of good, unsullied things we will have in store to pass on to our children, particularly those passed on by example.
Grace today y’all
When we think of how trustworthy the Bible is to consistently tell us the truth, it concerns us whether-or-not errors can be found that could discredit its reliability. Inerrancy is a term used among students of Scripture that means the Bible has the benefit of the doubt. Some prefer the word infallible, perhaps thinking it to provide more wiggle room. My choice is inerrancy because it respects the exactitude we expect from our Most High God, a challenge He will one day be seen to have mastered. Those that have a high view of Scripture regard the Bible we read to be without error - and not glibly so, or without sufficient warrant.
Paul wrote a final letter to his protégé Timothy for his encouragement. In it he insisted,
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for doctrine (that establishes the footing of Christian assemblies), reproof(of error), correction (of our error) and for instruction in righteousness (what is right for proper living in the eyes of our creator).” II Timothy 3:16 [parenthesis mine]
The Bible Paul read was Israel’s Bible. What he had to work with as an apostle with apostle’s credentials, is concepts he gained from the Old Testament Law and Prophets coupled with what the Spirit of God revealed directly to him, the traditions of the young Jewish assembly, the word of the apostles whom the Lord trained in person, and Luke’s research. In anyone’s estimation, it’s a pretty great accomplishment for Paul to live under such duress and threat to life and yet in all his days leading right up to his beheading retain his high view of the Lord’s word through these different channels. He was executed without recant.
Peter also retained an indominable high view of his Bible. As the first of the Lord’s apostles (sent ones) to be given the reigns of leadership in the Christian movement, Simon Peter was honored the burden of carrying the keys to the Lord ‘s kingdom, to approve the various groups that would respond to their story. In his second letter we find these words written just a short time prior to his crucifixion,
“No Scripture is of private interpretation, but holy men of God wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” II Peter 1:19, 20
In fact, all the apostles that witnessed the resurrection of Jesus died with their testimonies intact. At least a few of them had the opportunity to read some of what the earliest authors of the Gospels had written and affirm it with their blood.
In the third chapter, Peter in this same letter will go on to rate Paul’s letters to the various assemblies abroad as Scripture in their own right (II Peter 3:15).
This is not to infer the inerrancy question is a small matter to contend with.
So, Luke for one, tells us in his opening introduction to his gospel the pains he took as an author to get all the facts down accurately. He apparently spoke to a number of reliable sources for the events, teaching points and dialogue to provide Theophilus the best possible representation of the Lord’s actions and words. Each of the four Gospel authors did similarly but with their own flair and reason for writing. The honest scholar recognizes this as well as the fact that ancient historians often viewed their work differently than modern and particularly western reporters. It meant more to them to convey a story for its meaning in an order that befitted their purpose or helped their culture saturated readers memorize the essentials.
Another mistake too often made is to assign a mentality of deception for the sake of delusion to the authors. They wrote their testimonies and expositions based upon ethics derived from the Law of Moses. They were forbidden, as we all are, to give false witness. All the stories and accounts in the Old Testament fall under this rule (Romans 2:17-24). Paul’s own rule of thumb that he passed along was “Search the Scriptures and see if what we said fits what they say, and examine all things, prove them and hold fast to what you find to be true.” Acts 17:11; I Thessalonians 5:21 [attribution and paraphrase mine]
Following this line of defense, the fact that we have four Gospel records supports an argument toward inerrancy. The old rule of two or three witnesses fits here. The Lord saw to it we had not just three but four records by four different authors (two of which were eyewitnesses), obviously not in collusion, as assurance the testimony they bore was valid.
The inerrancy of the Bible is to be judged accordingly.
The Bible is arguably the most amazing book we have ever possessed and has withstood the fiery blasts of its critics with its integrity intact for over 3 millennia. It seems like more evidence of its wonder and inerrancy comes to light every year. The stamp of divine authorship is, as we say, on every page.
The same rock that is the foundation for a believer is a stumbler for the rebel in heart. The one that trusts in the Lord’s word as conveyed to us in the Bible, builds his or her life upon solid ground.
Grace today y’all
June 01st, 2022
Foundation for a Biblical Worldview
1. We are a product of Divine design
Psalm 139:13, 14
2. We are in a position above the animals
3. We have a powerful adversary
II Corinthians 4:4
4. We have a problem with sin
5. We have a plan for rescue
A. A great champion
B. A gift of grace
C. A guarded line of truth
Genesis 4:25, 26
Most all the major doctrines of the Christian faith are rooted in the soil of the first 5 chapters of Genesis then branch and fruit out as the Scriptures unfold.
[Some basics for the saints who wish to build their argument]
The esoteric (revealed only to a particular group – John 10:26) enigma (the unexplainable) of Jesus
1. The embryonic Old Testament witness
How the idea of the deity of the Christ begins to form in the Old Testament
A. From a case for complexity in our singular God
If God is one, then how can Jesus be God?
Deuteronomy 6:4 “One” is from the Hebrew echad. It is apparently a complex unity, or a one that can be plural. Compare ‘one’ in Genesis 2:24 and perhaps Numbers 13:23 in illustration.
Matthew 28:19 – “…the name (singular) of the father, son and holy spirit”
B. From comparison of Old and New Testament references
I. e. Isaiah 45:22-24 with Philippians 2:11; Psalm 102:25-27 with Hebrews 1:10-12
2. His embodiment of the Word
John 1:1, 14
3. His express words
Compare John 8:58 w/ Exodus 3:14
4. The empirical witness of His works
5. His entertainment of worship
Compare John 20:19-31 w/ Revelation 22:8, 9
6. The extended references in the apostles’ writing
God’s effulgence - Hebrews 1:2
His encompassment of everything beginning and end - Revelation 1:17
We have already seen that the Apostle Paul was open as he equated Jesus with the God of Israel in Isaiah’s prophecy of future obeisance to Yahweh/Jehovah. If Jesus is this same Lord, then He is somehow Yahweh of Israel. But it also stands that if He is Yahweh of Israel, He is Lord of all and therefore Lord of us.
He is Lord.
Will you bow before Him while you yet live? It is a declared certainty we all will bow to Him one day in our future.
Better now than later.
Tools to draw with
Why your mind may gravitate toward belief
Behind every decision to believe in God is the movement of God’s Spirit upon us. How that happens in real time and events will be found to include several contributors. I want to suggest three tools that are of the rational sort.
What impacts our thinking?
Jesus gave us the ultimate reason any mind gravitates toward belief to finally arrive at a personal and genuine faith in God.
“No person can come to Me unless the father draws them,” and “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but My father in Heaven.”
Given the possession of a sound mind, what sort of sound thinking results in movement toward faith?
1. Courageous appraisal of phenomena
Phenomena is what occurs that is observable.
Dr. William Lane Craig poses a question in his arguments appraising the possibility that Christ having been crucified, rose from His grave as savior of humankind. He recommends we courageously and honestly ask,
“What is the most plausible explanation for the phenomena?”
Is there a better explanation for the facts as we know them?
2. Assessment of the most desirable philosophy
Everybody has one. At some point we all subscribe to a love of particular wisdom as a way of working through decisions on right and wrong, likes and dislikes.
The Biblical psalmist once wrote “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” In his estimation, it is possible that someone can come into contact with the Lord (in reference to Yahweh) and come away impressed with His goodness. If it happened to us, would that draw our minds toward rational belief?
Then in another lyric David the sweet psalmist wrote, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” One might ask, are we counted as fools for our lack of belief because the evidence all around demands an explanation of outside involvement and we refuse to go there, or is it that we are fools to say there is no God because the absence of God has proven in history to be too horrible?
Something to note
Colossians 2:8 Speaking directly to a body of believers in the city of Colosse of the first century Paul the apostle of Jesus warned the group, “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.”
The essential philosophy of Jesus is threefold:
1. Faith in God’s Christ for salvation from sin
He is our only solution to moral failure in a just universe
2. Love your neighbor/love your brother for social responsibility
3. The leading of the Spirit of God for personal sanctification (or change for the better)]
There simply is no more beneficial philosophy people find so appealing. The best substitutions all borrow their basic tenets from the Bible.
3. The alternative to God is perilous
Friedrich Nietzsche prognosticated there would not be enough water to wash away the blood of the twentieth century if (so-called) enlightenment put morality on the shoulders of a world of men and women without God. He was not a believer himself but saw the terrible consequence of the removal of the God idea from society’s consciousness, particularly the God of the Judeo/Christian traditions.
He was right.
All our social experiments are in general not only useless toward human improvement but pernicious, and frequently prove fatal.
I much rather Christ and the Christian ideal of God over all.
We are free to draw our own conclusions, but the rationale for giving God a voice in the debate is compelling
Our Bibles are are known to be written by 40 authors gifted by the Holy Spirit over a span of some 1500 years to write the Scriptures for us. Several others whose contributions are researched and incorporated remain unnamed. Blessed Agur, whom Solomon selected as contributor to his collection, is one example.
His words hit home this morning...
"The words of Agur son of Jakeh. The oracle. The man declares, I am weary, O God; I am weary, O God, and worn out.
Surely I am too stupid to be a man. I have not the understanding of a man. I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One.
Who has ascended to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in his fists? Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son's name? Surely you know!
Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.
Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God."
Proverbs 30:1-9 [ESV]
Grace today y'all
June 01st, 2022
“Many seek the face of a ruler, but it is from the LORD that a man gets justice.”
Three indications stood out to me in Solomon’s observation…
Having been such a ruler he realized:
1. Ultimate justice cannot be found from a human ruler or judge
We seek the face of human rulers for justice. Solomon was a good one, probably the best ever in his early years. But they are, as he was, and like the rest of us, subject to their own passions. Ultimately it is the Lord we need place our to hopes in. The eyes of the Lord are in every place, and He knows the secrets of hearts. We set our expectations beyond earth’s pale in the courtroom of Heaven where there is no lack of justice for the inhabitants of this universe.
2. No transcendent Lord no final justice
Where there is no true and transcendent God retained in our thoughts there is no hope for justice. Full justice cannot be met out in a universe where the pains of consequence for crimes are not felt, and a person can escape by way of a death where no future for the soul exists.
3. The Lord is just and does justice
The God of the Bible is just, and His laws are perfect. His court practices exemplary jurisprudence.
"And the books were opened..." (Revelation 20:11-15) and "everyone will give an account..." (Romans 14:12)
For which reason I gladly rehearse with the psalmist, “My expectation is from the Lord.”
The word comes to us from a Latin word meaning lengthening of days. We can find the term in use among many Christian groups to mark the 46 days leading up to Easter weekend. In Christian tradition Easter falls on the first Sunday after the full moon following the spring equinox, which seems fitting since spring’s equinox is the day the darkness of nighttime has receded, and the light of daytime is once again equal to it.
“In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:4, 5
The 46 days leading to Easter include 6 Sundays which are not counted, given they are commonly regarded as days of rest. This leaves 40 working days. For observers of the Lenten season the 40 days begin on Ash Wednesday and are dedicated to some form of fasting and prayer. The majority set aside one pleasure, usually a food item or beverage. Many churches hold an Ash Wednesday service to officially kick it off. Typically, at some point during such a service the officiant will dip a finger into common wood ashes and mark a cross on each observant’s forehead or sprinkle some ash on their head, saying, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return," and "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel."
The number 40 for the length of the observance is derived from the 40-day temptation of Jesus as recorded in the opening chapters of the first three Gospels. During this period, He fasted and prayed, and resisted a variety of temptations. His success represents the perfection of His entire life prepared for a death that would meet the requirements for atonement (I John 2:2). The word atonement refers to the means (propitiation – a satisfactory offering) God has employed to either cover or remove the cause of the rift in our relationship to Him (Isaiah 59:2).
Should believers observe it?
Lent is not a Biblical event, that is, it is not one prescribed in the Bible by the apostles as they laid down their recommendations for believers. That said, it is not a bad thing. With such practices the danger usually lies in two errors. One is the mixing of paganism with Biblical truth and then calling it “holy to the Lord.” The second and more dangerous is legalism. Legalism refers to how we attach guilt for disobedience where there is none. We may create laws and rules and holiday observances, all of which may be helpful in some way, but to weight them with a burden of guilt if they are not kept inviolate is to do harm. This is what Jesus referred to when He said, “You teach as doctrines (in this case meaning divine truth to live by) the commandments of men (Matthew 15:9),” and “lay upon folks a heavy burden you are unwilling to help lift (Matthew 23:4).”
Lent or no, during this ‘lengthening-of-days’ season hopefully all of us will honor our all-sufficient Savior who has finished the necessary work for our atonement by His satisfactory death. Now, having risen He is “seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3),” “God having made Him both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36).”
Enjoy His kaleidoscope church and observe with delight the sincere devotion of all His saints, though it be different in ritual and appearance from our own.
Grace today y’all!