Children Belong to Parents, Not the Community

Children are not the communities!  Children are given to parents and they are parents responsibility.  Be careful NOT to buy into this kind of Postmodern, Socialistic, Big Government propaganda.  It is NOT Biblical!

A Creative God Does It His Way

winecellarOne of the communicable attributes of God is creativity.  Our God is a creative God, and since we bear His image, we are creative beings.  It is an attribute of God that He has woven into our being.

Now we don’t have the ability to create like he does.  He creates from nothing, ex nihilo (Hebrews 11:3).  Last time I created something, I had to go to the store to buy some materials and then spend hours putting it together.

Looking at the way God creates reveals a lot about his character.  It also sheds light on the way he created the universe in which we live.  If God is the same yesterday, today and forever, then how He created as Jesus, would give us a glimpse into how He created before time.

Creating Wine from Water

When Jesus began His ministry, the first miracle he performed was the turning of the water into wine at the wedding in Canaan.

His mother was the host of the wedding.  A first century Jewish wedding was a community event.  As was the custom of the time, a wedding feast lasted seven days.  It was a significant community event.

The wedding at Canaan was going well until Mary heard that they had run out of wine.  She immediately goes to Jesus and he offers his help.  She instructs the servants to do whatever he tells them and she hurries off to manage the next wedding.

Jesus Creates

Jesus then instructs the servants to go and fill six stone jars with water.  Each jar would hold between 20 and 30 gallons of water.  When they returned, he tells them to serve the guest at the wedding.

When they do as instructed, the water becomes wine as it is drawn out of the jars and served to the guest.  The water that has been turned into wine is of the finest quality that the bridegroom questions the reason for keeping the good wind to the end of the festivities.

Wine Has A History

Good wine requires a slow process.  The grapes must be carefully grown in just the right soil with just the right conditions to produce the best grapes for wine.  Once the grapes are harvested, their juice would be collected and allowed to ferment.

Fermentation of wine takes several weeks for fermentation.  Vintage, quality wine could sit for years before consumption.

The Wine Tells the Wrong Story

The bridegroom tasting the wine thought this wine was of high quality, possibly a vintage old wine.  When observers tasted the wine, they drew the logical conclusions.  The grapes had been grown, harvested, pressed, fermented, bottled, stored and delivered in order to be consumed.  This would have been a minimum of a year process.  If the wine was a vintage quality, decades of time could be assumed.

The wine that was drank at the wedding tells the attendants a story that was not true.  The observers would have came to the wrong conclusion about the age of the wine based purely on the story the wine told.

If you could do modern day chemical analysis on the wine, you could determine the type of grape, the region the grape was grown, and possibly the time-frame when the grapes were harvested.  The observations and science of the wine would tell a significantly different story than reality.  That which appears to have age, actually was new.

The Wine Had a Purpose

When God creates, he does so with purpose.  The wine that God created in Canaan was for a purpose.  It would have done not good for Jesus to create grape juice and wait for it to ferment.  It would have defeated the purpose.  There would have been no reason to create.

God creates with Purpose!

The Creation Tells the Same Story

When you observe the size of the universe and the distant starts and galaxies  we would conclude that the universe is billions of light years old.  After all, it would take the billions of years for light to travel from the stars to our planet in order for us to see them.

When God creates, He does so with purpose.

Genesis 1 tells us that the stars were created for the purpose of signs, seasons, days and years.  In order for the starts to serve their purpose, they needed to be created with the light already at the earth.

In order for us to see the stars of Orion’s belt, not only did God create the stars, he also created the rays of light between the star and our planet.  It is this light from these distant stars that allow them to fulfill their God-Designed purpose.

The Age of Things

So, is the universe old or young?  Is it 6,000 years old or 13.7 billion years old?

The answer is YES.

The earth was created 6,000 years ago, but was not created new.  It was created old.  It was created with age.  It was created to fulfill its purpose.

When Adam was created, he was a full grown adult.  He had no parents, but if you conducted a DNA test, you could determine the DNA of his Mom and Dad.

If you took a bore sample from the tree in the middle of the garden, the tree God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat from, it would have rings.  Each ring represents a year.  But the tree was created new, but it has age.  Why?  To fulfill its purpose of bearing fruit.

Doesn’t That Make God A Liar?

So if God created the earth to look old, but it was in fact young, isn’t that deceptive?  Isn’t that a lie?

The lie would be for God to create the earth young with age and to tell us in fact the earth is old.  That would be a lie.

But what God has done in the Scriptures is tell us over and over again, the earth is young.  It just looks old.

By listening to the only eyewitness of the event, we can understand the truth of the origins of the universe and all that is in it.  In six days he created the universe and all that is in it and on the seventh day he rested.

The Bible: Is it Just A Good Book?

The History channel has just completed its 10 hour mini-series, The Bible.  I have had mixed feelings about the series.  What I really thought was interesting is how it pushed a lot of people to read the Scriptures, some for the first time.

The Barna Group has just released the results of a survey indicating how Americans view the Bible.  The trend is downward.  How do you view the Bible?  And more importantly  how does it effect the way you live your life?

How America Views the Bible

It is Your Choice to Be One of the Elect, so Choose!

For centuries theologians have debated Predestination v Free-Will.  It can be a hotly debated topic and one that can be very divisive.  I don’t mind the debate, but I DO NOT want to be divisive.

According to John Calvin,

“Predestination we call the eternal decree of God, by which He has determined in Himself, what He would have to become of every individual of mankind. For they are not all created with a similar destiny; but eternal life is foreordained for some and eternal death for others. Every man, therefore, being created for one or the other of these ends, we say he is predestinated either to life or to death.” – Institutes, Book III, Ch. XXI, Sec. 5.

The Beginning Point

To unravel this question, I believe you must begin with God.

One of the incommunicable attributes of God is His omnipresence.  This means that God is at all places in all time at the same time.  In other words, God is.

Yahweh is God’s name.  It is how God referred to Himself with talking to Moses in the burning bush.  The name means “I am.” (Exodus 3:14)

This doctrine is described for us in several places through out Scripture.  My favorite passage related to His omnipresence is Psalms 139.  In verses 7 – 8, the Psalmists ask where one can go to get away from God.  He recognizes that no matter where he goes, God is there.

The omnipresence of God is a critical component in understand the relationship between Predestination and Free-Will.

Which came first?

The abbreviated version of the debate is based on the idea of it being EITHER  we were either predestined and our salvation was determined by a game of pick by God in eternity past OR we pick God if he wins the contest of religious systems.

It is almost always defined as either . . . or.  Which came first, the predestined or the free will?

Opposite Sides of the Same Door

I believe that we are actually dealing with a BOTH . . . AND . . . scenario.  Here’s how.

If God is omnipresent, this means that ALL of time exist as the present with God.  When the Holy Spirit pulled at my heart to accept Christ as my Savior, that was the eternal moment of election.  It was that moment.  It wasn’t something that took place in eternity past that has finally arrived 10,000 years after the election.  The invitation from the Spirit of God was the election.

God choosing me and my choosing God are the same event.  I view the event as a linear progression through time, but with God it simply is.  My past and future are present with God.

I Am Elected So I Choose

This is why God can declare things to be.  It’s not because He is looking into the future and therefore knows what will happen.  It is happening.  Everything is happening.  The creation, the crucifixion, my Salvation and the resurrection of the saints are events that are happening.  With God, these are not past or future events.

My Election was not an event in the past.  My election by the sovereignty of God and my choice to accept his gift on my own free-will are the same event, just a different perspective.

The Scriptures Agree

Look at the progression in Romans 8:29-30.  Those who He predestined, he called, and those who He called, he justified; those he justified, he glorified.  Paul is communicating the fact that the event of being predestined (election) is also the event of justification (salvation) and the event of glorification (sanctification).  This is a singular event from the perspective of God.

In Ephesians 1, Paul communicates the same story.  We are predestined according to the purpose of His will.  We are predestined and completed according to His will at the same event.

We were not chosen in the past and offered salvation in the present to be glorified in the future.  That is a linear perspective limited by our humanity.  From God’s perspective, we are chosen and offered salvation and glorified NOW.

What do you think?  Do you agree or disagree?  Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Our Prayers Change the Mind of God

Prayer

Flickr - Chris Yarzab

Do our prayers really matter?

If we believe that God never changes, that He is the same yesterday, today and forever, then do our prayers really matter (Hebrews 13:8)?  Can they really change the mind of God?

I Will Destroy Them

When the children of Israel made it to Mount Sinai, the LORD called Moses to Himself and delivered to him the Law.  After forty days on the Mount, Moses descended holding the commandements on stone tablets.  When he reached the lower parts of the mountain, laid before him was a scene that sent Moses into a rage.

The people had compelled Aaron to craft a golden calf.  They were worshiping this idol as many had done back in Egypt.  When Moses saw this scene, he threw the stones and chastised the people.

The response of God to this scene was even more severe.  God tells Moses to leave him alone for He is angry at the people.  He declares that He will destroy them and Moses will be the new father of His people (Exodus 32:10).

The decree of God has been made.  His Will is declared.  His plan and purpose revealed.  The people will be destroyed and He will begin again with Moses.

Moses prayed before the LORD.  He reminded God of His promise.  Moses prayed to God to change his mind. . . and He did (Exodus 32:12 – 14).  The scripture says that God changed His mind.

So the Lord changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people – Exodus 32:14

 King Hezekiah is About to Die

King Hezekiah was a good king of Judah.  He introduced religious reforms and brought back the Law of Moses to the land.  He destroyed the high places and the idol worship from the land.  He helped return Israel to following the LORD.

Hezekiah became sick to the point of death (Isaiah 38) and Isaiah the prophet went to him and declared the message of the LORD.  Hezekiah would die.

This news struck the heart of Hezekiah.  He prayed to the LORD.  He asked God to remember him and to spare his life.  Hezekiah prayed earnestly with bitter weaping (Isaiah 38:2-3).

The LORD heard the prayers of Hezekiah the king and sent Isaiah the prophet back to him with a message.  God said that he heard his prayer, that he saw his tears and that He would add fifteen years to his life (Isaiah 38:4-5).

The plan for Hezekiahs life was changed because of prayer.  If the prophet of God delivers a message to you that your life is over, your life is over.  The prophet Isaiah is not going to Hezekiah on his own volition, but as the mouthpiece of God.

God’s will was for Hezekiah to die.  His prayer changed the mind of God.

The Power of Prayer

The balance that exist between the Will of God and the Prayer of Man is one of time.

When we look at the two examples above, we must continue to the end of the stories and note that the decree or will of God was not changed.  The change was with the timeline.

When God declared that He would destroy the people, that decree was unchanging.  What Moses’ pray did was alter the timeline.  If you remember from you Bible lessons, every one of those worshiping the golden calf were destroyed through wondering in the wilderness.  It took 40 years for the destruction to occur, but God’s decree was unchanged.

When God told Hezekiah that he was going to die and not live, his prayer did not change that decree.  It did, however, add 15 years to his life.  The will of God was not changed.

Its Really About Time

Because God is, he has no past or future.  He is!  This means that the will or purpose of God is!  It is not going to happen, it is.  This is a very important distinction.

God’s Will is NOT changed.  It cannot change.  Because that would indicate a past and a future and God does not exist in that space-time continuum.  Our prayer’s can effect our linear timeline, but the plan of God is.

What do you think?  Do you agree or disagree?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Liberal Preachers in Our Pulpits

I don’t know if you realize it or not, but there are a lot of liberal preachers in our pulpits across this country.

They talk about ‘social justice’ and ‘gay rights’ as Biblical rights and responsibilities.  From women pastors to beer parties after church, there is an every growing change in the fabric of the church.

I tend to avoid pastors whose ideology differs so widely from my own.  I’m not opposed to the exchange of ideas and the opportunity for debate.  I just prefer to listen to my pastor teach the word without having to ‘filter’ out any social or political mumbo jumbo that I disagree with.

Face to Face with a Liberal

Our church invited Tony Campolo to speak on Friend Day, 2011.  I only knew of Campolo because I was familiar with the sermon, “It’s Friday, But Sundays Coming.”  I emphasis familiar, because that is all I knew.

When it was announced that Dr Campolo would be preaching at our church . . .from the pulpit . . . on Sunday morning . . . the news began to travel across the social network.  Really?  At our church?  The conservative, right leaning, Southern Baptist church was going to have a bleeding heart liberal stand in our pulpit and preach the sermon.  Really?!?

Sure enough on Sunday morning, there he was.  The Eastern University professor who was the ‘spiritual adviser’ to President Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky “issue” was in my church about to take the platform.

Hmmmmmm.

And Them He Preached!

I had decided to be open minded and listen and engage.  After all, isn’t that the point of developing a Biblical worldview?  I need to be able to listen and filter according to the Scriptures.

I tuned my filter and prepared to listen and take notes on the issues that I would need to address in my Sunday School class.  After all, I might need to set some things straight.

He didn’t open the Bible like one would expect.  As a matter of fact he didn’t have a Bible at the pulpit.  He took out his note cards and began to deliver the message.

Did I Hear that Right?

His message was really simple.  Tony Campolo said that there is a separation or divide in the life of the modern believer.

There are some who have a deep understanding of Theology and really have the knowledge and understanding of what it is to be a Christian.  The problem is that they do not have much application, so that knowledge has little value.

There are some who are steadfast and active doing what they believe to be the work of the Lord.  They are working hard and diligently, but they do not have an understanding of basic Bible doctrines.  And as a result, they are often led astray or misguided.

The point of the Christian faith is to have an understanding of Theology that leads to a working of that faith in deed.  It is the knowledge of our faith that causes us to be doers of our faith.

The Challenge

I remember listening and pausing his sermon in my head.  I wanted to linger on his point.  I wanted to digest this a bit more.

I know that I have a tendency to lean heavily on Theology and Doctrine.  If a quiz on the Basic Bible Doctrines was the standard or measure of my faith, I believe I would do well.  The problem is that the standard or measure of my faith is based on my actions or behavior.

James puts is so clearly when he says that faith, apart from works is dead.  If we say we are a believer and have all knowledge and understand all mysteries, and do not put that faith into practice in a tangible, real way, then our faith is useless, a sounding gong or tinkling cymbal.

Our belief in Christ is more than a series of tenets or precepts.  It is an expression of Christ dwelling within us.  We are to live a life that demonstrates the work of the Savior and not just the precepts of the Scriptures.

Answers about Homosexuality

I recently had a post about whether a person could be born gay.  Is is possible for a person to actually be born gay?  If so, what is the Biblical response?

Question 1: Isn’t “Abomination” a culture reference rather than a spiritual/sin reference?

The question points to the use of the Hebrew word “Toevah.”  It occurs 126 times in the Old Testament and it means “a disgusting thing, abomination, abominable.”  It carries both a ritual and an ethical sense.

The ritual use of the word relates to Jewish law relating to unclean food, idols, marriage to non Jews, etc.  It is an abomination for a Jew to worship an idol (Deuteronomy 7:25, 27:15).

The word also carries an ethical or moral distinction.  When Jewish practices were considered wicked, they are often described using “toevah.”  These types of practices are described  in Leviticus 18 and 20.  Those things that are considered wicked include, sexual relations with animals, homosexual acts, etc.

An important point to note is that Leviticus 18 begins by telling the Jewish people that the statutes and judgments that are about to be given are from the LORD.  These are His ways.  They are not to do the things that Egyptians or the Canaanites did, they are to walk according to His laws.

The homosexual act is a detestable thing.  It is an abomination.  It is an ethical or moral offense.  Leviticus 18:30 says “Thus you are to keep My charge, that you do not practice any of the abominable customs which have been practiced before you, so as not to defile yourselves with them; I am the LORD your God.”  The “toevah” customs of the Canaanites, if practiced, defiles oneself with God.  This is sin.  It is not an expression of a cultural exclusion.  It relates to the very nature of God’s law and is to be understood as sin.

Question 2:  Shouldn’t the term translated “Homosexual” in the New Testament be better translated “effeminate”?

Paul, in I Corinthians 6, relates certain behaviors or practices that are inconsistent with Christian living.  In that list he includes idolaters and adulterers as well as “malakos” and “arsenokoites.”  The question is related to the meaning of these two Greek terms.

Do they refer to homosexual behavior or does it refer to some other type of behavior that would exclude one from the Kingdom of Heaven?

The word “malakos” is used three times in the New Testament.  It is found in Matthew 11:8 and Luke 7:25 translated “soft.”  It is used to refer to clothing that is soft to the touch.  It is used a third time in I Corinthians 6:9 and the translators have used the English word “effeminate.”  With such little usage in the NT it is difficult to draw an accurate interpretation of the word.

It is obvious from the context in Corinthians that the meaning differs from the meaning in Matthew and Luke.  The Corinthians passage has no reference to clothes and there is no reason to assume from other portions of Scripture that preferring soft fabrics for ones clothing is a sin and would make one unworthy of the Kingdom of Heaven.

In the Greek culture,  the use of the word “malakos” had a metaphorical meaning beyond the term “soft.”  According to Thayer’s Lexicon, the terms alternate meaning is “effeminate, of a catamite, a male who submits his body to unnatural lewdness.”

“Malakos” as used by Paul in I Corinthians must be understood to mean a male youth who is engaged in sexual relationships with a man.  It is a homosexual sex act that might be best described as pedophilia.

At best this term would be aptly translated homosexual and at worst it would be translated pedophile.

The second term used, “arsenokoites,” in the text is used two times in the New Testament.  In both instances the term is translated homosexual.  It is found in I Corinthians 6:9 and in I Timothy 1:10.  Both passages are list of sins that should not be found in the life of the believer.

There is no ambiguity with the meaning of this word.  The term literally means “one who lies with a male as with a female, a sodomite.”

Paul is not using ambiguous terms to describe this sinful behavior.  It is a homosexual act that is included in the list of those who will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.

Question 3: What does Paul mean in Romans 1, “exchange the natural function”?

The interesting thing about this passage to me is that it is the clearest exposition on homosexuality in the New Testament.  Paul explains the progression to homosexuality in a clear and sound argument.  This is a passage that is difficult to twist because Paul is so clear.

The use of the phrase “exchange the natural function” in Romans 1:26 is defined more clearly by the same usage in verse 27.  This phrase is explicitly related to abandoning heterosexual relationships and committing “indecent acts” in a homosexual relationship.

Verse 26 is specific to lesbian relationships and verse 27 is specific to gay relationships.  Paul clearly explains that this type of behavior is contrary to the plan and purpose of God.

Conclusion:

The conclusion of the matter is that homosexuality is a sin along the same line as adultery, greed, envy, malice, stealing, etc.  Paul explains that these behaviors are not to be part of the Christian life.  He says in I Corinthians 6 that some believers where once engaged in these various behaviors.  But as a Christian, it should no longer be a part of our life.

Will we fail? Sure.  Will we struggle with sin? Absolutely.  But that is not an excuse to continue to sin.  Paul asked, “Shall we continue to sin so that Grace may abound?”  His response was “May it never be!”