Category Archives: Topical Studies

Know Thyself, Improve Thyself

uniqueness

Seven years ago in 2007, I was introduced to the life changing area of personality tests. I knew very little about how our personalities worked, let alone just how unique they are. My first test was the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), and all I can say is “wow.” After taking the test I read about every aspect it listed about me and I must say that it had me pegged perfectly. This test helped me understand just why I am so prone to always be in my head thinking as well as my love for structure. However, though my love for structure does help me be organized and get things done there is a flipside. The flipside is that I struggle in environments that are more “free flowy” and have little to no structure. So not only do we learn more about ourselves and how we operate, we also begin to learn more about our weaknesses in addition to our strengths.

Nevertheless in my opinion one of the major benefits to tests like Myers-Briggs is that not only do we gain a better understanding of ourselves, but it makes us more aware of others. For those like myself who are more of an analytical thinker, then our biggest weakness is that we are going to be more prone to neglecting our emotions and even worse the emotions of others. For me I am the thinker and my girlfriend is the feeler, so for us knowing this it allows us to better interact with each other. I know she processes with her feelings and she knows that I process through my thoughts. Therefore, us having a basic understanding of who we are and how each person’s personality differs helps us in our day to day interactions with each other.

A year after I took it the first time I had my mother take the test and I still remember her response. After taking the test and reading about my type she came up to me and said “I now better understand my son after 23 years.” Turns out she thought I was depressed because I spent so much time alone. Nope, now she understands that I was just introverted. So when we understand ourselves, it becomes easier to understand those around us, thus improving our relationships.

As Socrates famously said “The unexamined life is not worth living.”  (Socrates). So in understanding ourselves we can better understand how we can make the most out of our lives. In addition, this has far reaching implications into our day to day interactions with friends, in school, and at work. When we understand ourselves we are more capable of interacting with others because we know our strengths and weaknesses.

We live in a time with nearly half of all first time marriages end in divorce, miscommunication runs rampant, and many people seem dissatisfied in at least one area of their life. So I ask you, “What if we took the time to learn more about who we are?” If more people understood how personalities differ and what theirs and their spouse’s was: “Would divorce rates lower?” What about those unsatisfied in their jobs, “Would they know more of what work environment would be best for them?” If they better understood themselves, then would their state of well being increase? So I challenge you to learn about personality types, especially yours and those closest to you.

“People are inherently and genetically different. When we truly understand the people around us, we will become successful entrepreneurs, dedicated employees & friendlier colleagues. It’s when we try to make people think like we think and act like we act, that we end up firing employees, quitting jobs (and probably getting divorced).” –Forbes Magazine

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

wolf-in-sheeps-clothingHypocrite! Bigot! Zealot! Today in the States, such words are used to describe those of the three major monotheistic religions of the world with a major emphasis being on those who claim themselves as Christian/Catholic. But are these terms valid? Do they hold any weight? Today, most Americans claim Christianity as their religion, but are they even Christian? For many it is merely the religion they were born into and yet walked away from since adolescence. For others, it is merely a thing you check off on a personal Facebook profile after race and political view. However, there are those who more than claim it but also practice it, yet even then they differ in their actions. So who are the real Christians and who are the fake ones? Who are the hypocrites, bigots, zealots and so on?

St. Paul in his letter to the Romans establishes first and foremost that those who seek to be followers of Christ are those who confess openly and believe within that He is Lord (i.e. Yahwheh), acknowledge that they are sinners in dependence upon His merciful salvation,and seek to follow Christ in thought, word, and deed. So this is the first distinguisher between a real versus a fake Christian. Though it is easy to run one’s mouth confessing things, it is another thing to believe what you are saying and live it out.  It is the one who actually believes and lives it that makes them a Christian. Many today say they want to “thank their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” in their speeches yet do not follow Christ and continue in their sinful lifestyle. These people deceive not only Christians but also non Christians by their words and consequently their actions bring a taint on the name Christ and Christian. Sure, they talk the talk but do not walk the walk. For example look at those who used the name of Christ to promote violence, death, self gain, and manipulation and judge their fruit according to the scriptures. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:21-23

In one of His most popular messages, Christ calls His followers to beware the “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” These are people who claim to be His followers, yet are really not and are ultimately out to destroy the Church. In another teaching He warned His followers that many would seek to deceive them using His name. Christ continues in His message to offer the solution to this dilemma of struggling with discerning the character and realness of one’s faith by “watching their fruit and judging accordingly.” In addition to establishing and defining what makes someone a Christian according to the New Testament, scripture also provides further guidance on discerning the realness and quality of one’s faith.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” These words of Christ resound such simple truth that what we focus on reveals what is in our heart. Even the great philosopher and thinker Solomon once said, “For as a man thinks within himself, so he is.” For the one who confesses Christ their fruit begins with what they treasure. Do they focus on the external treasures of money, title, and popularity? Or do they focus on the internal treasures of love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness? For the true follower the internal is greater than the external, but by no means does that mean if you can make money do not. It simply means it is not your master.

Alas, if this was the only separation between Christianity and fake, or rather Facebook Christianity, then the former could easily be misconstrued for various other religious beliefs; thus, the differences go further. The main issue comes down to holiness and love, which are both two major themes throughout the Bible and the Christian life.  To the Christian, holiness is pursuing the ways of Christ. “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” These words from the Scripture ultimately mean to pursue a higher standard of living, a life free from sin. This does not mean Christians are perfect or claim to be perfect! It merely means they are called to pursue holiness, pursue being the key word. The calling to love is more than being kind; it is preferring others over oneself, helping, fighting for another, guiding others, etc. The one who loves God, others and themself overflows with the fruit of Christ. 1 John 4:8 says, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

For most Christians the line between walking in love and holiness is hard to reach, and many tend to lean one way or the other. This leads to what many see as “Bible Thumpers” or “Zealots” because they focus so much on holiness that they forget about the calling of love and step into religious legalism. This group focuses strictly, for the most part, on performance void of love and their hearts are not connected with the love and mercy of Christ. This is very easy to do. For others they begin to steer so much on love that their lifestyle is void of holiness. In otherwords, they may in “love” not address their friend’s sin with an anger issue; but in reality theuy are doing them a disservice by not calling them higher. In reality this tends to breed people who allow others to sin because they are afraid to offend them because they want to show love. Both sides can look and perhaps even become hypocritical when not balanced, but alas only God can read the heart. This is the fine line all Christians must find.

Finally when it comes to real Christians versus fake ones we must see both as a whole. It is very easy for one to claim being a Christian and yet live a lifestyle of sexual immorality or other “sins.” The difference between the real and the fake is that for the latter they tend to not really care about stopping. However, for the former they do care and they are seeking ways to stop through programs, accountability, or other means. Yet even with some Christians they may not be aware of their shortcomings.  For others, it may not be the right timing to address their pornography addiction, for instance, because perhaps they might be focusing on their alcohol addiction or something like that.

With today’s media putting a major focus on fake Christians and the shortcomings of the real ones, it is very easy for one to see them as one in the same. However, there is still a major difference which comes down to knowing what the Bible defines as a real Christian and if the person produces the fruit of a real Christian. This is why it is not the role of those outside of the Church to judge whether they are or not, but the Church’s, which sadly does not always happen. In the end it is those who claim to be Christians but do not acknowledge their dependence upon Christ and follow Him by pursuing a lifestyle of love and holiness are your wolves and those who do are your real Christians. Nevertheless, not only is there a difference between real and fake Christians, there is also a difference between those Christians who have “good fruit” and those whom are misguided and have “tainted fruit” **He may wonder what you mean by “tainted fruit “for all are not Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing.

Finding God in Suffering III: Finding Hope

Resurrection -1465- by Piero della Francesca

            In my previous entry I discussed how we can find Jesus in our suffering and how He is with the sufferer. He is in the very midst of their pain and anguish. Isn’t that what a lover does? A lover wants to be with their beloved wherever they may be, even if it is in the mud or out in freezing cold fighting to live. A lover wants to be with their beloved even in the midst of their trials. That is what St. Paul said in his first letter to the Corinthians when he wrote on love:

“Love suffers long and is kind; love…5does not behave rudely, does not seek its own…6does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

So if God is love then these things that Paul mentions about love are really definitions of who God is and consequently examples of His interactions with His beloved. But today’s blog is not about how God is with His beloved in the midst of suffering but about finding hope in suffering, so where to begin? Well let’s begin where we left off with our last blog, with C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain. “We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” It is in the place of pain that God is shouting to us that something is wrong. Something is incredibly wrong with the world and the way things are happening that needs a drastic change. For example you don’t have to tell the child with a stomach ache that something is wrong, they already know. They know that something is wrong and that their sickness is probably not going away until they run to mommy. Now can mommy make the sickness go away? No, but she can diagnose it and find out that the child stayed up each candy to all hours of the night and now they are sick.

Now just as the child knew that they are sick when we experience suffering the pain we are experiencing is telling us that something is wrong, and just like the child we can respond in one of two ways hide in our pain and try to numb it and ignore it or we can tell mommy, or in our case God. Our suffering is as Lewis put it God’s “megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” It is God’s way to tell us that the pain the woman feels each night as her husband beats her is not right. The pain people experience in life is His indicator to us that something is wrong, thus meaning if God is God then that means He has a better plan. What is this better plan? Well in a single word it is resurrection.

Resurrection or rather rebirth is ultimately a new beginning. It is the end of the old and the beginning of the new. It is the beginning of a new chapter, a fresh start for humanity and yet still so much more. It is the end of suffering and triumph over all of humanity’s enemies. It is the end of sorrow and beginning of unending joy and peace, and it is this reality of the Christian Hope that is the conclusion of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, so let us dig deeper.

So where did this rebirth begin? Where will this end or rather when will it culminate? Well it began two thousand years ago when Christ conquered death and became the first fruits of new life. Christ the first fruits having thrown down the principality of death becoming the first born of the dead, the first to enter into the new birth has paved the way for humanity to follow; however, the story does not end there. But what does that entail? Is it merely a spiritual new life or is it physical as well? Is this “new life” better than the original? Well let’s begin with the spiritual side.

New Birth: Spirit

At the point of spiritual new birth, that which comes through salvation, the spirit begins the sanctification process that ultimately is the freeing from the internal bondage. What does that look like? At the point of salvation man’s spirit begins to change through the leadership of the indwelling Holy Spirit who now lives within to guide in the paths of righteousness. On top of this the Spirit begins to bring freedom to our spirits from the bondage and sufferings that have befallen us for so long because of sin. So what does this mean in less spiritual jargon? Well as the Holy Spirit begins to sanctify us in righteousness we begin to stop saying yes to sin; which in the Christian mindset is the root of suffering. At the point of salvation the sinner is now both freed from the bondage of sin and becoming free as well. As we sin less we are ultimately creating less suffering for us and for others, though this does not mean the Christian is now free from suffering, but quite the contrary as the Christian is ultimately now creating less suffering.

Along with the decreasing of desire for sin in the sinner’s new birth into Christianity, the new Christian begins to walk the path of freedom from those things that had so long entangled them during their estrangement from God. These things being and not limited to: addictions to drugs, smoking, alcohol, sexual immorality, freedom from self hatred, narcissism, ect. However contrary to the more Post-Modern American Evangelical mindset it is not some instantaneous change from a sinner to a great holy Christian, nor is it some state of immediate freedom from ones struggles. Though some may experience some supernatural freedom from past struggles or massive leap in the sanctification process it is still a process that will continue throughout the entirety of ones life.

Now the last aspect to the new birth of the spirit is the end of alienation. No longer does the sinner remain alienated from God, but through salvation and the new birth of the spirit the Christian can now enter into blessed fellowship with God through the indwelling Spirit.

Though there are more aspects to the spirit’s new birth these are three of the main ones, though one might argue for eternal life the Bible makes it clear that even the unrepentant will have eternal life but they will be living it out in the lake of fire. At the point of death of the body or of the resurrection of the dead then our spirits will be transformed into Christ’s likeness both in the body and in the spirit.

New Birth: Body

The new birth of the body is just as glorious as the spirits, though for many it is simply the end of death but it is so much more than that, so let’s delve deeper. Unlike the new birth of the spirit the body’s new birth does not begin at salvation but at the resurrection of the dead when Christ returns.

So let us begin with the obvious death is no more, no longer will man be able to die. No longer will man be able to suffer pain, sickness or any infirmity. This invulnerability to death and suffering is for those who are in Christ alone; as for those outside of Christ they will receive some form of an eternal body, but unlike those in Christ theirs can and will experience suffering.

There is much that shrouds the capabilities of the resurrected body but what we can safely assume is that whatever Jesus did with His and even what Adam and Even could do pre-fall we can do. That means when we work, yes we will still work, we won’t sweat. Work won’t be hard unlike it is now. Our minds quite possibly could be enhanced to where we are able to tap into 100% of our brains instead of only part. This idea can be seen in Adam’s ability to name every animal and manage the garden. We won’t experience shame or even self hatred concerning our bodies; this does tie in with the new birth of our spirits. Just as Jesus ate, we will eat. Unlike the Greek Gnostic mindset that says the body, work and all of physical reality is bad, the Biblical mindset says that the physical reality is Holy which is why we get a New Body.

For many they tend to liken the abilities of the resurrected body to that of modern day superheroes and though they may appear similar they are still completely different. Now concerning walking through walls, though it is possible scripture does not support this idea. Jesus never walked through walls, but rather it says Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst.”John 20:26. So how did He get in there? Well it was most likely more like He was translated just like Philip in Acts 8:39. Jesus on another occasion is translated from one place to another on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:31. Lastly how else could He see 500 people in 40 days, unless He could translate? Finally can the resurrected body fly? Though Jesus does ascend to heaven and is supposed to come riding on the clouds, that does not completely constitute flight. It merely shows that God was and will be demonstrating is superiority over the world. Does that mean we won’t fly no? No, it simply means we cannot assume anything other than it will be both glorious and perfect.

So in summary, what will the new birth of the body look like? Perfect.

New Earth

Presently we live in a fallen world where chaos, anger, death and corruption run rampant, but the New Earth will be completely the opposite. Just like the resurrected body the New Earth will in many ways return to the way things once were. Well what does that look like? Well there is peace; humanity lived in perfect harmony with all of creation. The soil was soft and not hard, the animals were not trying to kill them and there were no destructive storms in the land. Yes even the weather itself was in perfect harmony with the rest of creation. So if that was what creation looked like on the earth pre-fall we can only assume it will be at the least be the same if not better, which it will be.

Since the fall creation has groaned; for ever since humanity was thrust into exile from paradise they have waited, longing for alienation to end. Ever since the resurrection humanity has been freed from their estrangement from God and a New Exodus has begun, one that will culminate with all of creation finally reunited with God. For when Christ returns He will put to right all the wrongs as humanity’s exile comes to an end and the Father walks among His creation once more.

So what does the Bible say about the earth or rather New Earth as it says in Isaiah 65 and Revelation 21? Well first there is a King named Jesus, but that goes without saying if you have ever read the scriptures, but for the sake of the one who has not read much I divulge more. In Psalm 89:3-4 David recalls the covenant that the Lord gave to him:  “I have made a covenant with My chosen; I have sworn to David My servant, 4I will establish your seed forever and build up your throne to all generations.”  So from the covenant the Lord has established the throne of David forever, thus if Jesus is the promised seed then there must be a throne. This is not some celestial, ethereal throne floating off in the cosmos but one on the earth. It is tangible.

However more than a King, there is also a Kingdom for a king is not a king without a kingdom; it is as simple as that. So what is this Kingdom? In a word it is perfect. So what is a Perfect Kingdom? For starters there is only peace. No longer will fear, anxiety and depression fill the streets. No longer will violence rage from nation to nation, for peace will overflow from the throne to the ends of the earth. This is what it means for Isaiah when he said: 7There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:7 In short there will be peace all over the earth and it is will never end for there is not end to the expansion of Christ’s Kingdom. Now does that mean that because there is no end to the increase of His Kingdom that we will take over the stars, planets and galaxies? It is unlikely that we will expand the Kingdom to the galaxies as the language is focusing on the fact that no other government could stop Christ’s Kingdom. To add on to this thought on the Kingdom there will no longer be wickedness or injustice for the One who sits upon the throne will uphold the perpetual peace through righteousness and justice for it is these two realities that are to be found as the foundation of His throne. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; lovingkindness and truth go before You.” Psalm 89:14 No longer will there be an unjust or wicked king, no longer a flawed righteous king but a Perfect King who will always uphold righteousness and justice all throughout the Kingdom. Thus the poor will be fed, the homeless will be given a home, the orphan and widow a family, the leaders will no longer take bribes or be corrupt. Every sphere of society will be upheld by righteousness and justice. No longer will teachers pick their favorites and ignore the ones who are hard to educate. For when the Prince of Peace sits upon the throne the perfection of all things will go forth as justice and righteousness upholds all things.

Well if there is a Perfect King and Kingdom what about the rest of creation? Well for starters it is new or rather perfect. Contrary to popular belief in much of the church we will not be living in heaven on clouds as fat little cherub babies after this life, nor will we dwell before the Lord worshiping in heaven for all eternity. To go along with these false suggestions of the afterlife the current earth will not be completely destroyed, thrown away and thus replaced but it will be restored to perfection. Why? Well why not? Why would God who has done so much to save all of creation when it is all said and done just abandon His creation? What’s more what about the apocalyptic scriptures that don’t reference people but the land? So let’s look to see what Isaiah has to say concerning the earth: Isaiah 35:7 “The scorched land will become a pool and the thirsty ground springs of water.” Isaiah 44:3 “I will pour out water on the thirsty land…” Isaiah 62:4 “…your land, ‘Married’; for the Lord delights in you, and to Him your land will be married.” God clearly has a heart for the earth as it is His desire to not only to revive that which has become barren and dead but He also desires to marry the earth. Even if you want to spiritualize the reviving of the earth as a spiritual revival then why would God say He will marry or rather become one with the earth? Why would He give the Israelites in Deuteronomy laws concerning the treatment and mistreatment of the land if He did not have both a heart and destiny for the Earth itself? So what is the earth’s destiny? Perfection.

To even go one step deeper there will be peace on the earth even among nonhuman creation. Once again let us peer into the eyes of Isaiah: “And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little boy will lead them.” Isaiah 11:6 Finally humanity will not live in fear of creation as there is peace among all creation. To quote Woody Allen “The lion may lie down with the lamb, but the lamb won’t get much sleep.”

How does the earth become perfect or new? Well it starts back with the King. When the King comes He will establish peace, righteousness and justice in the earth that will ultimately transform all creation. At the very end of His thousand year reign, He will have thrown down Death, Hades and the accuser of the brethren Lucifer. No longer will death take place in the earth, no longer will injustice continue and no longer will the oppression continue. In Zechariah chapter 14, Zechariah prophesies that the Lord will be king over all the earth and even goes on to talk about the rain and the cattle as if these two things are still needed, thus food and the harvest will continue. But if these things be true and if even the people of the earth are beating their swords into plowshares in order to farm then there must be a destiny for the earth. So what is the fire that will consume the earth? Well if you have ever read the Psalms or the Prophets then you will have noticed that on many different occasions the writers use the word fire as a means not for destruction but for purification. So if this be true then surely when the Bible says fire will consume the earth, then perhaps this is what it means. The fire of God will purify the earth unto perfection transforming it into a new look or rather a new earth. As N.T. Wright so eloquently once said “Heaven is important, but it is not the end of the world.”

God All in All

So with a view of our hope being found in New Spirit, New Body and New Earth there is one last wondrous reality to consider; God will finally be all in all. Paul in his typical emblematic fashion paints the picture of the culmination of all things into perfection with this one small phrase: God will be all in all. O’ the bliss God and humanity will finally be one; the creator and His creation finally dwelling together in perfect unison. No longer will heaven be God’s realm and earth creation’s, but God and creation both humanity and nature will all be one. God will be glorified in complete perfection through all created order, and it is this reality of the Christian Hope that is the conclusion of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

20But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23But each one in his own order: Christ the first fruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 24Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. 27For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. 28Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all. 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

Finding God in Suffering II: Jesus With The Sufferer

Flagellation-of-christ-_Rubens

             Jesus is not just some philanthropist seeking to bail humanity out of their suffering but He is a lover seeking to draw near to His beloved in their suffering. These words ring throughout the depths of my soul; God desires to be with us in our pain and brokenness.

             “You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you,” said the Lion this is such a powerful statement Aslan tells Jill in C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia: ‘the Silver Chair’” In the midst of our own brokenness we are blinded to our own need, though we may be aware to a degree of our need we truly have no clue just how broken we are. Just as the man blinded by complete darkness cannot see the dirt and filth that covers, we cannot see just how dirty we are. It is this reason why in John 1:5, 9 it says The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it…9There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.” As the world lay in deep darkness unaware of its need suddenly a great light pierced through the veil to enlighten the souls of man.

God looking upon humanity’s inability to draw near to Him out of their own blindness took it upon Himself to solve the problem of alienation between God and man Himself. The answer was Jesus, the very Second Person of the Blessed Trinity; God in flesh. The One who spent eternity past arrayed in light took off His garbs of glory and took on the garments of dust. The one who knew equality with God laid it all aside to draw near to the broken, consequently now knowing equality with broken humanity. Until we understand the depths of what He gave up for us, we will never truly know the greatness of His love towards us, but this will be touched upon in a future blog. As stated prior, if you are a lover then you want to be with your beloved in all things, even in their pain. This is what it means to be a lover, to be with them in the rejoicing and in the weeping.

So God looking down upon us in our anguish took it upon Himself be with us. Like Aslan calling to Jill before she even knew there was an Aslan, Jesus was coming to us before we ever knew there was a Jesus. The lover was coming to His beloved before she ever knew they were ever loved.

 Christ Suffers With Us

            Let us begin with the most iconic moment where Jesus suffers with humanity. “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was.7Then after this He *said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’” John 11:5-7 The Bible tells us that Jesus had love and affection for His friend Lazarus; thus, hearing that His friend is sick decides to stay two more days and then go see His friend. Having kept a low profile with the Jewish religious leaders seeking to kill Him, takes two more days and then comes out of hiding to go see His friend whom He knows is now dead. Does Jesus know that Lazarus is going to die prior to the time He leaves? Who knows but what we do know is that He decides to wait in order to bring glory to the Godhead.

As Jesus shows up on the scene Martha comes running up to Him to say in summary “If you were here my brother would still be alive, but I trust that You could do something” in which Jesus responds “You have no clue what I am up to but I do love you which is why I am here.” Martha leaves and sends Mary to Jesus. As Mary comes running up to Jesus she falls at His feet in tears saying in summary “I know You could have done something if You had simply been here.” Jesus looking at His friend weeping at His feet and those that came with her weeping was both deeply moved and troubled. Why troubled? Well we will save that for another time. What we do know is that Jesus experiences sorrow and begins to weep within; this is what it means in the Greek by wept. It is not a loud sobbing but rather a silent weeping that is primarily an experience of internal sorrow. So Jesus in other words is not performing some outward weeping like the professional mourners who accompanied Mary, but as one whose heart was broken in deep pain. As a side note at the time there were those who people would hire to come and mourn at a funeral, these being called mourners. This is why the silent and more internal weeping that Jesus experienced was a true experience of sorrow, thus in the moment Jesus is entering Mary’s own suffering as well as Lazarus’ suffering.

Turning to the John 8 we read the story of the woman caught in adultery being brought before Jesus for judgment. As all gathered to mock and condemn her as she wallowed in her shame before all to see; Christ knelt down beside her. As the upper echelon of religious elite sought to condemn her to death after she had experienced the fullness of shame possible, Christ did the unthinkable. The Great Rabbi adorned in fine garments got on his knees and played in the dirt. Though many have speculated what He was drawing whether He was writing their own sins or just doodling either way, whatever it was all their attention left the woman and moved to Christ. The religious elite no long looking and mocking the woman now with turned gazes stood bewildered at this Great Rabbi as His next words would leave them reeling to the point they would leave; yet, it was His drawing that moved her shame unto Him as the laughed at the “Great Rabbi” becoming the “Crazy Rabbi”.

Christ Enters into Suffering: Part I

            Jesus seeing that humanity was lost and broken and completely alienated from God became a man, lived thirty-three years and suffered death. However, though the cross was a painful experience it was His being cut off or separated from the Father that was the true pain. Jesus’ alienation from the Father began in Gethsemane and continued to build until it climaxed into total abandonment at the cross.

As Jesus entered into the Garden “He *took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. 34And He *said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.’ 35And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by.” Mark 14:33-35 For as the hour approached for Jesus to head to the cross His soul was already deeply pained to the point of death, so much that He couldn’t bare for eight of his disciples to even see Him in His sorrowful state of weakness. Jesus though not wavering in His identity or in any way committing a sin was now facing His greatest temptation and greatest fear; fear of being separated from His Father, separation from an eternal relationship.

His heart rent with deep agony fell to the ground and began to groan in intercession. For it was that   Jesus is now being tempted in a way that He never truly experience, that was far greater than what He had ever experienced, even in the wilderness. Jesus is in such agony and pain as to what is to come that He is yelling, groaning and even sweating drops of blood. Why, because He is afraid. Sure He is about to experience the greatest beating and one of the most painful deaths imaginable that is not simply enough to cause Him to enter into this state. Many men have gone to the cross and died that were of less character than He and never once suffered the agony we see Jesus entering into. So what is He afraid of? Well for one reason though not nearly as dramatic as the primary but big enough is the fact of betrayal. Jesus after many hours of pursuing His best friend Judas’ heart at the last supper, in hopes to save him, knows that he is coming to betray him, which will ultimately lead to his own damnation. (For more on this see Love’s Final Attempts) This is more than enough to break Jesus’ heart but still not enough to the point of His agony in Gethsemane even when paired to the sufferings on the cross.

Jesus in His agony yelled in deep sorrowful groaning “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.” Mark 14:36 Jesus is ultimately saying “Dad! I do not want to do this!!! Is there any other way? You are the most powerful and wisest person I know, PLEASE!!!! Have You found a new way? But if this is it…I will do it.” These prayers in the garden were not pretty eloquent prayers but groans of a man in complete terror, because of what is to come. Jesus is about to experience the wrath of God, Satan and Man that will ultimately lead to him being separated from God and Man.

Satan Wrath: This can be summed up in two ways. Satan is doing everything to keep Him from going to the cross, but also wants Him dead. Though the Bible does not openly acknowledge this, we can be sure that Satan is tempting Jesus in the Garden and all the way to the point off death to not go through with the cross. “When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time.” Luke 4:13 With Jesus undergoing His greatest fear we can be safe to say there was no greater fear to tempt Him. Along with this when Jesus says to Peter to “Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Mark 14:38 He was not simply telling them for themselves alone but also for Himself. His Spirit was in Full Obedience to the will of His Father, but His flesh was terrified and thus tempted. With this in mind the other aspect of Satan’s wrath is in the fact that he hates God so much that he wants to see Him suffer to the point of death. So both sides are crashing upon Christ’s frame. However the next two are even harder on Him.

Humanity’s Wrath: The ones Jesus loves and came to save are now betraying Him, mocking Him, beating Him, rejecting Him and are soon going to kill him.

God Wrath Fall Upon Him: As the sin of humanity descends upon Jesus His Father would release the full judgment upon His Son that would cancel the judgment destined for humanity, thus also leading the Father turning His back on the son and cutting off from fellowship with Him; this leaving the Son completely abandoned and ultimately an orphan. This being the greatest suffering He will ever experience, the suffering of abandonment from the One Who loved Him for eternity past.

            The writer of Hebrews states that because of Jesus’ piety the Father heard His cries and does respond in two ways the first being He sends angels to strengthen His Son in the Garden and the ultimate is that He truly did save Him from death, but not the way Jesus had hoped. The Father saved Him by death through the resurrection. But in between the two the Father does not say or do anything. Why do I say this? Well for one Jesus is praying three times in the Garden and the Father does not answer but only by sending angels, thus showing the estrangement from each other has begun. The ultimately display is when Jesus for the first time ever address God not as Father but as God when He cries out “My God, My God, Why have You forsaken me?” Jesus no longer using the familial address of Father but is now taking on the cries of an orphaned heart saying ultimately “God where are You? Why have you have abandoned me and casted me out into darkness and silence?” Yet in His time of pain and abandonment He never gave up.

In His abandonment Jesus becomes cut off from an eternal relationship from His own Father; thus, bringing alienation to fullness. The Son becoming cut off went from an eternal relationship of always experiencing and feeling His Father’s love to being alienated and separated. It is for this reason why He was sweating blood in Gethsemane, because He knows what is to come and is terrified and does not want this. Thus Jesus experienced loneliness and can actually say “I know how the widow feels when they are lonely.” Think of you marrying the love of your life at 18 years old and you remain in married bliss for the next seventy years and now at 88 years old your spouse tragically leaves you because they no longer love you. Think of how traumatizing and painful that would be, then times that by ten billion and you still cannot touch the depths of the pain of the Father’s abandonment of the Son. This sorrow was experienced equally on both sides in different ways, but that is a point for a different time. It is this sorrow of abandonment and separation from His Father that stands alone and equal to all the suffering humanity has ever experienced combined.

Christ Enters Into Suffering: Part II

            As the story of the Gospels go on, Jesus is betrayed by His best friend whose breast He once leaned upon in fellowship just a few hours earlier. (For more on this see Love’s Final Attempts) Jesus even at the last supper expressed the pain of what Judas’ betrayal through one of David’s Psalms as one of the greatest pains a person can experience. Side note the Gospels recognize Judas as a thief and Jesus was aware, thus Jesus suffered being robbed on multiple occasions even by His close friend. However; not only does Judas betray Him, but all of His friends abandon Him, Peter denies Him three times and Judas kills himself. This is alone is enough to break the strongest of hearts, yet Christ endures. While Christ is on trial He is beaten, mocked and spit upon constantly that leads to His crucifixion. The ones He loves and came to save would soon send Him to the cross to hang naked humiliation for all to see and mock. The betrayal of His own people was such a huge pain of suffering that one cannot fully grasp without a deeper understanding of His relationship with them throughout the Old Testament.

As already stated but while hanging on the cross Christ would soon experience the greatest suffering ever in all of history, the suffering of His abandonment from the Father. Yet even in the face of His abandonment Christ pressed on to endure one final suffering; He died. Jesus Himself declared about His own life in John 10:18 that “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative.” In other words if Jesus had never willingly went to the cross, because He makes it clear to Pilate that He could have delivered Himself if He had wished, but if He did not willingly die He would never die. Jesus could not die unless He allowed. But He is a man right? Yes, but even in His humanity because He had never sinned He was not subject to the curse of death. This meaning Jesus would still be alive preaching and doing miracles today if He had never died. Even more because He had never died, Jesus could not get sick, or grow to be an “old man” full of wrinkles, lose His eyesight, go bald or even go grey as all of those are consequences of sin. If you were to have never sinned, then you would not be bound by death and decay and all that accompanies, thus all the more important for Jesus to willingly lay down His life. With this in perspective Jesus suffering of death is far greater than even the average.

Jesus with the Present Day Sufferer

            When finding Christ with the present day sufferer few have said it better and clearer than C.S. Lewis in “The Horse and His Boy”

Shasta was a little reassured by the breath: so he told how he had never known his real father or mother and had been brought up sternly by the fisherman.  And then he told the story of his escape and how they were chased by lions and forced to swim for their lives; and of all their dangers in Tashbaan and about his night among the tombs and how the beasts howled at him out of the desert.  And he told about the heat and thirst of their desert journey and how they were almost at their goal when another lion chased them and wounded Aravis.  And also, how very long it was since he had had anything to eat.

“I do not call you unfortunate,” said the Large Voice.

“Don’t you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?” said Shasta.

“There was only one lion,” said the Voice.

“What on earth do you mean?  I’ve just told you there were at least two the first night, and -”

“There was only one: but he was swift of foot.”

“How do you know?”

“I was the lion.”  And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued.  “I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis.  I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead.  I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept.  I was the lion who gave the horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time.  And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to the shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.” 

            So where was Jesus? Where was God in the Holocaust? Where was He when the child was being abused? Where was God during injustice? Where was He as present day humanity suffers?

Well He was with the prisoner in the gas chambers at Auschwitz. God was with the slaves being lynched during slavery. He was on His knees with the woman caught in adultery. He was with Mary and Martha in her sorrow at Lazarus’ grave. He was hanging on a cross with both thieves on Calvary. He was with the child hiding in their closet from their abusive father. He was weeping with the child whose parent(s) tragically died. He was with the single mother struggling to take care of her children. He was with young man filled with shame cause he was bound in sexual immorality. He was with the man who just couldn’t seem to get it right. He was with the one who could see everyone around them prospering with relative ease and they fought to keep going. He was with the one stuck in addiction. He was with the one who felt worthless. He was never distant and never will be distant from the sufferer but will always be right there with them.

            In summary I will leave you with C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain “We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Lessons from Isaac in Sonship.

Isaac meets Rebekah

Walking in Confidence as a Son: Confidence in the now, with a hope for the future

When we think of what it means to be a son, let alone a confident son, too few struggle to comprehend this thought. Why is that? It is because we live in a generation where fatherlessness runs rampant all throughout America. I myself grew up without a father during most of my life, but does that mean I’m completely fatherless? Does that mean I am doomed to live out the role of the proverbial bastard? No! Why? Because there is One who has called me to be His Son…He has called us all.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will…In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will…13 you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:3-14

Before we were born there was One who desired to have us as His sons and daughters. Not only does He desire us, but He has taken care of everything for us to live out eternity as royalty being bathed in His unending love. All we have to do is say yes, believe and receive. However, we live in an age where the picture of what a father looks like is either greatly distorted or missing, so in short it is far easier said than done.

In Genesis 24 Abraham having been recently widowed, saw that his son Isaac had no wife of his own; thus, called his chief servant to his side. Abraham seeing that his son was sorrowful at the loss of his mother and having enjoyed his years with his son, desired that his son would have a family of his own before he passed away. Therefore he charged the man to go to the land of his fathers and bring back a bride for his son. Without anyone telling Isaac what had transpired the servant was off. As the servant traveled to the land of Abraham’s fathers in search for a bride for Isaac, Isaac continued on with the day-to-day in ignorance of what his father was up to.

With his father Abraham reaching the end of his days and his mother having already passed away, Isaac wanted to spend his time with his elderly father. Being fixated on serving and being with his father, Isaac would not be distracted by the cares of this world; even at forty years old he remained obedient in love to his father.

So it came to pass that as the servant returned with a beautiful, God-fearing virgin bride, Isaac went out to the field to pray. As Isaac unaware went out to meditate in the field toward the evening; and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, camels were coming. 64 Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac she dismounted from the camel. 65 She said to the servant, “Who is that man walking in the field to meet us?” And the servant said, “He is my master.” Then she took her veil and covered herself. 66 The servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. 67 Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and he took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her; thus Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

Isaac knew that His father desired him and had a destiny for him as well as an inheritance, and it was from that place he could walk in confidence. Even after forty years and having lost his mother, he could walk with his head up confidently knowing that his father loved him and had a plan and future planned for him. With unwavering confidence in his father’s love for him, he went up the mountain as a boy to be sacrificed and with unwavering faith in his father he went out to the field to meditate on the Lord.

This is what we are called to be, those like Isaac who are confident in their identity as sons and daughters. Today take time and ask the Father to declare to your heart His love for you and desires for you to have a future. For He has given to us the His Spirit as the down payment of our inheritance that is to come in Him; not only that but the Spirit testifies to our hearts who we are in the Father. So let the Holy Spirit speak to your heart today. He wants to encounter you, He wants you to be confident in His love for you just like Isaac was confident in Abraham’s love for him.

“The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,” Romans 8:16

Pre-Pentecost vs. Post Pentecost and what changed with the filling of the Holy Spirit.

pentecost

When we read about Pentecost and what ensues after it we see the disciples filled with boldness in their preaching and operating in “extraordinary miracles,” but was this all because of the “out pouring” or something else? What changed after they were filled? What didn’t change? For the record I must state that I have yet to fully achieve the complete answer, but merely have found an argument/perspective based off my observations to hopefully cause one to consider to dig into the scriptures to find truth.

Before we start with the book of acts let’s look at what we see these followers doing in the Gospels so to get a better grasp on what is new post out pouring. In the Gospels we see the disciples already doing signs and wonders and operating in authoritative preaching. When Jesus send out His disciples it says He gave them authority of unclean spirits. And He *summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. Mark 6:7 But what we see them doing is even more than simply casting demons out, but we see them healing the sick and preached of the coming kingdom. We can safely assume that the preaching had some level of impact of people, because they are preaching, healing and casting demons out; the latter is the most unusual of the three. They went out and preached that men should repent. 13And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them. Mark 6:12-13

So in the Gospels we see the twelve operating healing, casting out of demons and  preaching, however; the twelve are not the only ones Jesus appoints to do ministry with Him. Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. Here we see the seventy being formed to prepare the way for Him, but what does that look like? “and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” Luke 10:9 Here we see the seventy are commanded to heal and preach, but did they stop there? No, let us continue on. The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” 18And He said to them, “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. 19Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you.20Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.” Luke 10:17-20 So we see the seventy come back saying “Wow You said heal and preach but we thought why not try to cast some demons out and it worked!” Jesus responds, “Ya I saw Satan himself get lose ground because of what you did, good job but it gets better. Because you are citizens of heaven!” So in summary  we have eighty-two people preaching, healing, and casting out demons, but do they perform signs and wonders?

So the question on the table is do any of the eighty-two, seventy and the twelve, do any of them perform signs and wonders? In Luke chapter nine before the seventy are even formed we see two interesting things. First some random person is casting demons out in Jesus’ name. Why is this unique? Because he is not of the twelve and the seventy has not been formed yet, meaning even if he were to be one of the ones invited into the seventy he has not been commanded by Jesus to go forth in power. John answered and said, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name; and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow along with us.” Luke 9:49 The second is even wilder because it is stepping into a new category of supernatural power. When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” Luke 9:54 That’s right two of the disciples ask Jesus if He would have them call fire down on an entire city and consume all of its inhabitants. That is more than a sign that is a wonder; with that in mind let us not forget all of the supernatural signs, wonders, healing  preaching and removal of demons from Moses, the judges, the prophets, Joshua and even David. On a side note consider the powerful transformation of John going from the one asking to destroy a city and all of its inhabitants and fighting to be the greatest to become the Apostle of Love.

There is one last miracle to consider and it is this; Peter walked on water. in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. 26When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.’ 28Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’ 29And He said, ‘Come!’And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ 31Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and *said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt? Matthew 14:25-31 So Peter is also doing a sign and a wonder but what happens? His faith wavers and he is no longer able to perform this sign and wonder.

In John 14:12 Jesus tells the eleven disciples that those who believe in Jesus can do the same works Jesus does and even greater. Then from there in John 14:26 and 16:7-14 Jesus declares that the Holy Spirit will help the disciples remember Jesus’ words, teach them more about God and just help them out. Also He will convict people of sin, righteousness and judgment.

So we see that Pre-Pentecostal Out Pouring that followers of Christ are performing, signs, wonders, healings,  casting out of demons and are preaching, so what is new? The Holy Spirit? Yes…and no…And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. John 20:22 That’s right ten of Jesus’ followers have apparently already received the Holy Spirit. Now if that isn’t confusing then I don’t know what is. So let us try to figure this out. Did the Holy Spirit they receive here was it a smaller Holy Spirit and later they would get a bigger one? May it never be! In Acts 1:5 Jesus tells the disciples that soon they will be baptized with the Holy Spirit, but of these eleven we know Thomas was the only one not there when the ten were filled. So is it just for Thomas? Also in Acts 1:8 Jesus says, “but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you shall be my witnesses…” So what does this mean? They already are operating in some serious power. Let us continue.

In Acts 2:4 it says “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving utterance.” So here we see everyone in the room is now filled with the Spirit and now they are doing a brand new sign and wonder. But what of the ten previously filled? Ready for the answer? I don’t know. The best conclusion we can see is that though they were filled they may now have become awakened to the movement of the Spirit until Pentecost.

After Pentecost they are still doing signs, wonders, healings, demon removals and preaching, but two things have changed. First they are doing these things in a more abundance. Second thing is their faith is not wavering like it once did. In the Gospels when the Jews came for Jesus the twelve are scattered, the seventy are unheard from, Peter denies three times and only John returns. However, after Pentecost and when the disciples are all filled with the Holy Spirit their faith is no longer really wavering like it once did, in fact their faith seems to have been both strengthened and dramatically increased. Why? Because the amount of miracles the disciples are doing has increased and the fact that they are performing more powerful and unique miracles. Their handkerchiefs and shadows are now healing people and in Acts 19 it says Paul performed “extraordinary miracles” that led to those in sorcery converting. Demonic miracles workers are being outclassed. Jesus explained it best Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not drive it out?” 20And He *said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. 21But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” Matthew 17:19-21 The disciples are doing miracles with a small amount of faith but after they become filled with the Holy Spirit their faith is increased substantially. Jesus tells them if their faith was stronger they could do even more. So after they are filled their faith greatly increases and so do their miracles.

So what is our conclusion? It would appear that the filling of the Holy Spirit does four primary things though is not limited to these:

  1. The filling of the Holy Spirit gives believers great fellowship with God. No longer did the disciples have to wait to be in the same room with Jesus to talk to God but now they can do it anywhere at any time, even to the degree that their spirits are now speaking with God (tongues).
  2. The filling of the Holy Spirit gives greater revelation and gives conviction. Now believers understand the deep mysteries of God in a new way, having more convictions and are able to walk out holiness. How are they getting this? Because of point #1, fellowship with God.
  3. The filling of the Holy Spirit gives greater boldness and confidence. Now no longer do they waver like they once did Pre-Pentecost, no longer does their confidence rattle under pressure. Why? Because the Holy Spirit is testifying with theirs of their identity and that He is with them.
  4. The filling of the Holy Spirit has increased their faith. Now their faith is increased; meaning where once the idea of casting demons out was bizarre now they are breaking off addiction. Where once healing the sick was mind boggling now their shadows and handkerchiefs are doing it for them. Why? Because of greater all of the above has strengthened their faith.

So everything the disciples experienced with Jesus has now been greatly increased through the ability communing (prayer and tongues) with the Holy Spirit who gives identity, revelation, conviction and all of these through the filling of the Holy Spirit seem to increase our faith to believe for more. Pre-filling Peter believed to heal the sick, after his shadow is doing it for him. So the reason their works are increased substantially is because their faith is stronger than it once was. Now if God said “Come” Peter could probably walk on water during the worst of storms and not waver in His faith. Now John’s faith could most likely finally move that mountain. Which at least once has apparently been done in church history, but that is another story for another time…

Biblical Slavery vs. Modern Slavery

Have you ever asked the question “Why is slavery in the Bible?” or “Why do the Jews have laws that allow them to have slaves?” I know I have. I mean even when Jesus walked the earth why did He not say, “Let there be no more slavery.”  I know He said that He came to set the captives free but still there were slaves and there is that big confusing thing called the Law of Moses that gave rules on proper slavery. So what’s the deal? How do we make sense out of all of this?

Well first start by defining slavery. The Dictionary states it as: The state of one bound in servitude as the property of a slaveholder or household. So they are roughly personal property that they can do whatever they want to with. So they are the same as a shoe or trashcan and just like one’s shoe or trashcan you can do whatever you want to with them. We see this kind of slavery when whites used to have Africans as their slaves. But is this the same kind of slavery we see in the Bible? Modern slaves have no rights, no freedoms, many cannot get married, and they are treated however the mast may wish.

We shall start our observations with Abraham. Now Abraham himself had slaves/servants in his household. But who was his household if all there was, was Sarah, Lot, Lot’s wife and daughters. Yet he is said to have a household? Who else made up a household? Well it’s simple it was the slaves/servants. They were a part of his household for they were under his authority or rather his possessions. The scriptures gives us the name of one who was under his household named Eliezer, this man had been made heir of all of Abraham’s house. A slave was made heir, now this is quite peculiar (Gen 15:2-3). Who ever heard of a slave receiving an inheritance let alone everything? Though as the story goes on Abraham eventually has a son in old age who becomes the new heir but that does not change the point that a slave had been made an heir at one point. When Abraham was growing near to his death, he asked the oldest of his house, who was also a slave, to go and find his son Isaac a wife. Now this slave had been put in charge over his entire house. This was no mere slave, this man had authority. Many tend to think Eliezer was the one placed in charge since at one time he was the heir, no matter who it was it still shows that Abraham’s slaves were not like modern slaves. Now on our final point concerning Abraham when he went to war before Isaac was born he had his slaves go to war with him, but if he was just single man with no children why would they fight for him? Would they not just rebel since they have the obvious number advantage?  And how could he afford to weaponize them even with his wealth? Perhaps they possessed their own weapons and if that is the case why not use those weapons to free themselves from slavery? Surely they were not like modern slaves. Maybe something is different about this form of slavery, as these slaves have authority, possessions, and freedoms as well as are considered to be part of the family in many ways.

Now in the Law of Moses it gives many laws concerning how to treat their slaves. If man were to possess a fellow Israeli as their slave they were to be set free on the year of jubilee, but the Gentile was kept for a permanent possession. These Gentile slaves were not what we define modern slavery. Remember modern day slaves have no rights, they are considered to be nothing more than animals with no value than that which one could get out of them. The slaves in the Bible under the Law of Moses had rights, they could marry, they celebrated with the family (not as the cooks in the back but celebrated with them), they had the Sabbath off and so on (Ex 20:10, Deut 5:14, Deut 12:12, Deut 16:10-14.).

The Law of Moses (Post Abraham) states multiple times to be careful of how they treat slaves and to obey God’s laws concerning slavery, for they themselves were once slaves and know what that felt like to have no rights. The Code of Hammurabi which dated back to 1777 BC was one of several sets of laws in the ancient Near East. [7] The code of laws was arranged in orderly groups, so that everyone who read the laws would know what was required of them.[8]The Code of Hammurabi gave neither penalty for the murder of a slave, nor a penalty for injuring a slave, and it considered the life of a slave to be of a lesser value than that of a free born man. However, the Law of Moses gave the death penalty for the murder of any man (Exodus 21:12), a slave was to be set free if his master inflicted a permanent injury (Exodus 21:26-27), and both slave and free man were considered equal (Exodus 21:12, 19). For the Law of Moses these rules were for both Jewish slaves and Gentile slaves. So wait slaves under the Law of Moses had civil rights that the master was mandated to uphold? Even in the U.S. after the slaves were set free it was  nearly a century later that they finally started receive civil rights from the government, yet in the Bible the slaves started off with it. How peculiar…

In Lev 22:10-11 only the Levitical priests could eat the food that was considered holy, where as the rest of the children of Israel could not. But wait what is this? The slaves of the priest can? That is quite peculiar.

“No layman, however, is to eat the holy gift; a sojourner with the priest or a hired man shall not eat of the holy gift. 11But if a priest buys a slave as his property with his money, that one may eat of it, and those who are born in his house may eat of his food.” Lev. 22:10-11

Now if you are one to think that the Bible promotes racism and that God disliked or valued Gentiles as less than then simply read: Num 15:15-16, Ex. 23:9, Lev. 19:33-34, Lev 24:22.

Now let us move on to the New Testament and Jesus and the Pauline letters. It is true that Jesus never said slavery is bad, nor did Paul, however; they never said it was good. They never promoted it nor denounced it. Jesus did however claim the prophecy of Isaiah 61:1 and how He had come to bring freedom to the slaves; this may be found in Luke 4:18. We also know at the second coming of Christ He will fulfill that passage completely and all slaves will be set free. In Matthew 8:9 it speaks of the servant of the Roman centurion who was gravely sick, so the centurion asked Jesus to heal him. Now the word used for servant is “doulos” which just happens to be the same word used in Matthew 20:27 when Jesus calls His disciples to become like servants to one another. Jesus calls us them to be a slaves if they are to become the greatest in the age to come. Jesus in the Gospels called the Jews to keep the Law (Torah) which means even the laws concerning how they treated slaves. Most of these slaves/servants would have comprised mostly of people in debt to them. He also called them to be merciful and to love.

Present day slavery of taking someone from their home and making them your slave because of their race or making them your sex-slave was not a current big issue with Jesus’ audience. If it was then He would have addressed it and since we only have a fragment of what He said and did we cannot say He never addressed it. But if you take His messages on love, mercy and forgiveness it could easily apply to the present form of slavery. Forcing someone into prostitution is not love. In reality they were the one being oppressed and He called them to love and not attack back. This is in some ways similar to the MLK method during the Civil Rights movement, though Jesus called the people to go even the extra mile out of love (Matthew 5-7).

The Pauline letters are addressing the same thing if you are a slave/servant then obey your master, love them, honor them (i.e. don’t fight them). Paul goes on to address the masters and call them to love and honor the slaves/servants (i.e. remember the Law of Moses and the Greater Law of Loving your neighbor which is both Jew and Gentile). Also in the book of Philemon Paul actually addresses a man on his slave/servant for his freedom to the point he offered to pay for his freedom.

In conclusion, that I am aware of the Bible never says “Thou shalt not have slaves” just as it does not say “Hey go buy yourself some slaves” it merely addresses how you treat them if you have one. They are not inferior but to be considered as part of your family. This is why many slaves when set free were prone to becoming lifelong bond slaves to their former master. They at some point fell in love with their master because their master because of how great they had been treated. If the master had obeyed the Law of Moses or later the Law of Love given by Christ then they would have treated their slave as one of their children. The slave would have viewed their master as less of a task master but more of a father figure. The slave would have been a part of the house and thus upon release many would long to stay as part of the family, hence becoming a bond slave. For many of the slaves they probably would have found a place of dependence on their master like a son towards his father. This is a reflection of God with us. Upon being set free we realize our dependence and love towards Him and how good He has always been towards us and we subject ourselves to Him out of love and thanksgiving. So Modern slavery is wicked but it would seem though I could be wrong that the Biblical form not only was completely different that it’s modern form but also to point us to God.

 

Two sisters, married to the same man but only one could have his heart: The story of Leah and Rachel

Though many know the story of Jacob and his two wives Leah and Rachel and how he loved only one, it would seem there was more to the story. This is that story.  In their early years  Jacob loved Rachel very much and far more that her other sister, his first wife Leah. We have heard the story of how their father Laban had tricked Jacob into marrying Leah so not to disgrace to older sister by the younger marrying first, plus there is the fact Laban wanted to keep using Jacob as cheap labor. However in the midst of all this Jacob married Rachel after Leah and preferred Rachel over Leah thus rejecting Leah. The Lord in His mercy saw the pain in Leah’s heart from the rejection of her husband and gave to her a son, Jacob’s firstborn so. Leah responds to the Lord by naming her son Reuben which means “Behold a son” 32Leah conceived and bore a son and named him Reuben, for she said, “Because the Lord has seen my affliction; surely now my husband will love me.”  Leah sees the gift of God as a means to win her husband’s approval. Still even after producing Jacob’s firstborn son she went on unloved, so the Lord in His mercy gave to her a second son. Leah here responds to the Lord by naming her son Simeon, “He has heard,” for God had heard her sorrows. 33Then she conceived again and bore a son and said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this son also.” So she named him Simeon. Yet Leah went on being rejected by her husband and in her heart yearned to win her husband’s love, so the Lord granted to her a third son. For her third son she named him Levi, meaning “Join” for she had longed that her husband would join his heart with hers. 34She conceived again and bore a son and said, “Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Therefore he was named Levi. Now even after giving her husband three sons, while her sister Rachel produced no children she went on being unloved and rejected by Jacob, so her heart cried before the Lord. The Lord in His kindness and gave to Leah a fourth son whom she would name Judah, meaning “Praise.” Here it would seem that Leah learned a valuable lesson being that though her husband may have rejected her, God had not thus she lifted her hands and praised the Lord for His faithfulness to her. 35And she conceived again and bore a son and said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” Therefore she named him Judah. Then she stopped bearing. Genesis 29:32-35.

As the story continues Leah’s son Reuben goes out and picks some mandrakes and returns home. Rachel seeing the mandrakes desires to take and eat them for herself. Leah responds asking why her sister must first take her husband and now take her son’s mandrake’s, which he had gathered for his mom. Rachel responds by offering the right to lying with Jacob that night as payment for food. 14Now in the days of wheat harvest Reuben went and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”  15But she said to her, “Is it a small matter for you to take my husband? And would you take my son’s mandrakes also?” So Rachel said, “Therefore he may lie with you tonight in return for your son’s mandrakes.” 16When Jacob came in from the field in the evening, then Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must come in to me, for I have surely hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So he lay with her that night. Even after this the Lord sees Leah’s love for her husband and opens her womb up again that she might bear a fifth son, Issachar meaning “There is a reward.” 17God gave heed to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son. 18Then Leah said, “God has given me my wages because I gave my maid to my husband.” So she named him Issachar. It is in my opinion that the reward of a fifth son being more of the fact that Leah seems to have valued Jacob far more than Rachel did, much like Jacob valued Esau’s birthright more. Nevertheless, once again God’s gaze fell on Leah and He opened up her womb that she might bear a sixth and final son for Jacob. This time she named her son Zebulun meaning “Gift of honor” or more likely “Dwelling of honor”. 19Leah conceived again and bore a sixth son to Jacob. 20Then Leah said, “God has endowed me with a good gift; now my husband will dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons.” So she named him Zebulun. Finally Leah bears Jacob a daughter whom she names Dinah, meaning “Judged” or “Vindicated” which the names shows how the Lord vindicates Leah’s mistreatment with six sons and one daughter while her sister had yet to produce one child. 21Afterward she bore a daughter and named her Dinah. Genesis 30:14-21

Though the Lord seems to have shown an abundance of favor to Leah, He had not forgotten Rachel and gave to her a son whom she named Joseph “He will add” for the Lord had removed the reproach of barrenness from her. Rachel believed now that she had born a son that she would be able to bare another. 22Then God remembered Rachel, and God gave heed to her and opened her womb. 23So she conceived and bore a son and said, “God has taken away my reproach.” 24She named him Joseph, saying, “May the Lord give me another son.” Genesis 30:22-24

Later on in the story of Jacob and his wives we the Lord calling him and his family to leave Laban and to return to his father’s land. What is the interesting fact is that it was Rachel who sought to take the idols of her father with her. Leah who had learned the lesson of worshipping the Lord did not, but it was the younger sister that desired the idols. When Laban had gone to shear his flock, then Rachel stole the household idols that were her father’s. Genesis 31:19 Jacob having no clue that Rachel had done such a thing was unable to stop her, and the scriptures say nothing about Leah in this regard but it would seem to contrast the difference between the two wives in where their hope was.

Years later the Lord opens up Rachel’s womb again that she might bear another son, however this time the birthing process would be too much for her and would claim her life. When Rachel heard that she had given birth to a son she named him Ben-oni, meaning “Son of my sorrow” for her soul was passing away. However, Jacob not desiring that his son would be named with such an awful and negative changed it after Rachel died to Benjamin which means “Son of my right hand.” 18It came about as her soul was departing (for she died), that she named him Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin. 19So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). Genesis 35:18-19

 

Lastly let us now consider where Rachel was buried, which was on the road to Bethlehem. Though this seems of little consequence it is quite peculiar. Why would the woman Jacob had loved so much in his early days just bury her while on the road? Joseph made sure his bones were to be carried from Egypt back to the land of his father (Genesis 50:25), so why not Rachel’s? Leah on the other hand was not treated in the same manner. Jacob while in Egypt and lying on his death-bed reveals that he had buried Leah in the tomb with his grandparents Abraham and Sarah and of his parents Isaac and Rebekah. This is quite peculiar, for his last request before he passed away was that he might be buried in that tomb with his wife and parents and grandparents. So at Jacob’s passing he was carried from Egypt to the land of Canaan to be buried. 29Then he charged them and said to them, “I am about to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, 30in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field from Ephron the Hittite for a burial site. 31There they buried Abraham and his wife Sarah, there they buried Isaac and his wife Rebekah, and there I buried Leah—32the field and the cave that is in it, purchased from the sons of Heth.” Genesis 49:30-32

In conclusion, though Jacob had loved Rachel more in their early years because of her looks, it would seem that as time went on things changed. As Leah began to find her confidence in the Lord and it would appear she gained favor with the Lord and ultimately her husband. Scriptures seem to show that Rachel did not mature much in the Lord at all. No wonder Jacob at the end of his life desired to be buried with Leah for as the preacher says Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.”Proverbs 31:30

Contrary to popular belief but Jesus was not financially poor…

This was me just hashing out something and thought I would share.

Historical Context

In Matthew chapter 2 the Magi who were traveling to see Jesus were men of prestige and to some level of power. They would not travel just three guys by themselves with a small little tribute. These men would have their own entourage of guards and would not show up with some small chest of gold but would bring a lot. To bring a small amount would be an insult to them. There were probably about ten magi and up to about 100 guards. When King Herod saw the magi he would not have freaked out over three men with some little presents to some supposed newly born king. He would however freak out over seeing some magi with their huge presents and a lot of guards on their way to bring tribute to the newly born king.

Jesus’ family would have to have had enough money to finance a trip to Egypt at last minute in which Joseph would most likely not been able to find work right away or at all. Plus they would have to have been able to finance a trip back to Judea but when they were almost they went to Galilee which added more distance to travel thus requiring more money to travel. Jesus did work as a carpenter which shoes that he made money. Who knows how wealthy the family was to require him to work.

At the cross Jesus handed the right to watch over His mom to John. Now theoretically if Jesus was watching over Mary then where would Joseph be? Plus if Jesus was watching over His mom where did He get the money to take care of them? Were His four younger brothers doing that? This part is very much theory but what if Jesus had enough money to take care of His family during His three years of ministry as well.

Biblical Context

Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means. Luke 8:1-3

Jesus had women giving Him money

Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” John 6:7

Two hundred denarii is A LOT of money equals a couple of thousand

He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. John 12:6

Judas who is in charge of holding onto the money for Jesus and the disciples is taking from it and no one seems to know about it at the time. First one does not need to have treasurer unless you have enough to hold onto. Second the fact that Judas was taking money without anyone knowing shows us that there must be enough for him to take and no one notice. In other words it is easier to take $5 from $100 than to take $5 from $10.

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” So the soldiers did these things, John 19:23-24

Jesus’ garments were nice enough that the guards divided the garments showing they were worth taking plus the tunic was high quality(seamless) thus showing Jesus could somehow afford nice clothes.

Jesus had enough money to finance 3 yrs of ministry for 13 men.