Monday, June 28, 2010

The Man from Nazareth


"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." -John 1:14

If you were God & could design how the Messiah would come, what would you do?

1. Issue- The smallness of Jesus.
Some people today assert that Jesus cannot be the Messiah. Their reason is similar to that of a child who has a birthday party and receives under his expectations. Or in haste beholds his presents and then says, "That's it?". Some expect that the real Messiah would be famous, well-received by His people, and accepted by all the world. They believe that when the Messiah comes, it will be a time for celebration & will be so big that the world will not miss him or her. If Jesus is the Messiah, to them it seems like a fireworks show that never had a lasting grand finale. Jesus, in their opinion, was kind of a "dud".

2. Big picture of Jesus- He is the key figure in history
Well, lets look at Jesus, from a big picture perspective. Jesus, unlike Mohammad or any other religious leader, actually did miracles, fulfilled prophecy, and rose physically from the dead. He, an obscure man from Israel, from Bethlehem & Nazareth, two small towns in the Middle-East is known all over the world. Even back then, non-Christian historians wrote about Him. He is the central person of history, He is the person which all are divided over. This one man has forever changed the world. Either you embrace Him as your savior, or you grince at the sound of His name. All major world religions have a place for Him, but all reject Him (which is why they are considered different religions, unaccepted by Jesus). He is the pivot point, the stumbling block, the sword, the great divider. He splits up families, and forges new ones, He heals the sick, raises the dead & causes people to reject Him. He was the one the Hebrew Scriptures pointed to and who the New Testament books talk about. The main gist of the Scriptures is- If you know Him, you know God. If you don't know Him, you cannot know God.

3. So, why then doesn't everyone embrace Him if He is the Messiah?
However, in this assumption, or neatly contrived formula, of how a real Messiah would be received, they forget one element. They forget human pride, sin, depravity, greed, lust, selfishness, impurity, and the rest of the evil that men focus on. Most have their lives planned out and don't want the interruptions a savior would bring. Pride says, "I will handle it myself and don't need saving.". Lust says, "You mean I gotta stop this? Well, maybe when I'm old." and may never reach that point.

As to the Jewish people- Many Jewish have embraced Him (tens of thousands). Most have rejected Him. One day, Israel, as a whole, will receive Him when He returns. As for those who have rejected their Messiah & died, there is no hope (same outcome for the nations).
Back to the fireworks show- The prophets advertised the upcoming show, Jesus was the fireworks show, the grand finale was the Father resurrecting him from the dead, the journalists reporting were the apostles & Church.

4. Many do embrace Him. To many He is HUGE.
Pulling back out- people from every nation, every culture, most every language (maybe even all languages) have embraced Him. He is the one who can cross all racial, ethnic, and language divides, because He is above all of these. He reaces to the nomad in the Negev & the king in Uganda. He reaches the executive at Marathon and the trainer at McDonald's. He excites the heart of the homeless man on Lower Wacker, and the shepherd in Mongolia. He give hope to the brother in North Korea, and the woman with cancer in Findlay. He reaches out to and saves the heroin addict, the hooker, the athlete, the intellectual, the doctor, the party animal, the engineer, the dancer. He offers salvation to the atheist, the Muslim, the Baptist, the agnostic, the homosexual, the drunk, the arrogant, the fool, the wise, the Bali dancer, the pole dancer, the writer, the lifeguard, the jock, the rejected, if they would receive Him. And each can come, just as they are and receive him as He is.

The picture is big, the choice is personal.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Jonathan's Question re: Holocaust, Jesus, & Heaven


So I felt it necessary for me to think through Jonathan from the Maui trips question on how ridiculous it is for Christians to assert that Holocaust victims would go to Hell.

A couple random thoughts
1. The Holocaust was evil.
2. Hitler was not a Christian.
3. Jonathan is confusing the question of salvation with the character of God. I think Jonathan's real question is, "How could a loving God allow that?".
4. God is working out His purposes for the Jewish people. And has partially hardened their hearts until the full number of Gentiles comes in.
5. How the Holocaust works into God's plan is beyond me. It does remind me of the several times in Israel's history of when they have been taken captive by other nations like Babylon (ie Daniel & his buddies). God brought them into captivity SO THAT they would not perish, but have everlasting life. He brought them much trouble, because without trouble they would not repent. Once again, I do not know the complete mind of God. So I can't say for sure.

So do the Holocaust victims all go to Heaven?
1. Because someone goes through a terrible time does not qualify them to go to Heaven. God has never called us to "pay our dues", or all experience some kind of hell in order to have life.
2. Because someone was a basically good person (ie better than Hitler) does not qualify them to go to Heaven. If goodness was the qualifier, none of us would ever go to Heaven. So be thankful this is not the case.
3. The issue comes back down to the question, "How does anyone go to heaven?".
According to the Bible, anyone who places their trust in Jesus has life; enters into an eternal relationship with God.
4. Therefore, if people in the Holocaust placed their trust in Jesus, then they are forgiven and enter into a restored relationship with God. If anyone places their trust in Jesus, they are forgiven and enter into a restored relationship with God. Did some of the Holocaust people do this? I have no idea, but I think I have heard stories about this.
5. Does God make special exceptions for those who have been "cheated" out of a life of pleasure and general goodness? No. Actually, suffering is a friend of people. And, until we get our minds around this, we will never understand that pleasure can often be worse than suffering. Back to WHY God often sent Israel into captivity, and why Solomon said, "Better the house of mourning than the house of celebration.".

So a simple equation, to explain who goes to heaven:

T->L Trusting in Jesus as savior from your sin leads to life
NT-> D Refusing to trust in Jesus as savior from your sin leads to continued death

The holocaust was evil, no doubt. But even though evil happens, God is still good and is working out His plan for Israel, wanted none to perish but all to accept His great salvation through receiving their Messiah, the Anointed One, the Christ.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Do Christians go to Heaven at the Moment of Death?


Q: Do Christians go to Heaven at the moment of death?

A:

1. What does it mean to be dead?
Dead= your soma is in a casket, river, urn, whatever. Your pneuma/psyche (spirit, soul, consciousness) is somewhere else. The destination of where else you are we will get into in a little bit.

2. The Bible says that those in Christ "fall asleep". What does this mean? Dead.
To fall asleep, is a metaphor for being dead. In the Hebrew Bible and the world of the Hebrews, the phrase "to sleep" for someone who is no longer living, means to die.

Example- John 11:11-14, Jesus said that Lazarus had fallen asleep. The disciples were confused as to why Jesus needed to help a guy taking a nap, so Jesus speaks in a literal way by telling them that Lazarus is dead.

Example 2- 1 Thessalonians 4:13-16, Paul talks about those who have fallen asleep in Christ. Later he refers to those same people who are dead & how they, at Christ's coming, will rise first. They are asleep in Christ/dead.

Example 3- 1 Kings 2:10, David slept with his fathers and was buried.

See also Lazarus and the rich dude. See Luke 16:19-31.

There is no soul sleep. Some suggest this, but it is not found in the Bible. At best, it is a misinterpretation of the first three examples I just gave.

3. So what happens at the moment of death for Christians?
At the moment of death 2 things happen.
Your body (soma) stops working.
Your spirit, soul, consciousness (pneuma, psyche) go to one of two places.

Place 1- Hades>Lake of Fire
If you are not in Christ, it goes to Hades (see Luke 16:19-31 for a description of what this place is like) until the Great White Throne Judgment, where Christ will then cast a person into the Lake of Fire which was prepared for Satan & his angels. This is the second death, a place of conscious bitterness & torment.
*Possibly, this is a place where God gives the sinner exactly what they want. An eternity of separation from God. Freedom to be on their own. But the question then is, "why are they so unhappy?".
*Is this place fair? Is God just? YES. People know their is such a place, but don't really worry about it, often until it is too late.
*God also made known the remedy for sin. That is through submitting to the savior, receiving His gift of salvation and turning from our sin (self-directed living).
God leaves us the choice. To say, "God, I don't want you. I am fine thanks.". Or to say, "God I have sinned, Jesus I need your help, the salvation you offer, and I want you to be my Lord.".

Place 2- Heaven, Eden, with God, Paradise
Those that are "in Christ", at the moment of death go to be with Christ.
In fact, quite possibly, death is the point in which Jesus comes and removes us from our bodies. I have heard stories from people I know who, at the moment of their death, have raised up their hands to Jesus, smiled, and said, "Jesus" and then died.

Example 1- Stephen's death, Acts 7:52-60.

Biblical support
Luke 23:43- Jesus tells the criminal hanging next to him that he would be with him, TODAY in paradise.
2 Corinthians 5:6-8- Paul would rather be absent from the body & at home with the Lord. Not that this rules out an intermediate place, but Paul makes no mention of some other option.
Philippians 1:23- Paul would like to depart & be with Christ. To depart is to be with Christ.
Hebrews 12:23- the spirits of the righteous who are made perfect, there are some who are enrolled (in the census) of Heaven from the church. See some examples in Revelation 6:9-11; 7:9-10; 6:10

Further Questions-
1. What about Purgatory?
Purgatory is not taught in the Bible, it is a Catholic tradition. There is reference to "praying for the dead" in one of the Apocryphal books, but these are not on par with Scripture.
Purgatory is an insult to the sufficiency of the blood of Jesus Christ.
Purgatory is against the gospel. It teaches that somehow we need to work or wait off, to merit, at least in part, our salvation. Scripture clearly teaches that we cannot earn our salvation, it is a free gift. God designed it this way so that only He can receive the glory, not human pride. God will not allow humans to receive any self-made glory. And this is why the message of the Cross is so difficult. People want, in their pride, to be self-made. They don't want to submit to a handout. The Cross was a handout.

2. Aren't those who have died outside of Christ, at some point, annihilated? No. The Bible clearly teaches eternal, consciousness. We are eternal beings. Our flesh is created, material, takes up mass. Our inner person is immaterial & therefore cannot be destroyed. There is eternal death but not the word eternal. There is no ending point. It is the eternity of separation from the blessings of God, exactly what the person wanted in life, but in death will soon learn to regret. It is an eternity of regret and suffering.

3. Say I die in some freak accident before I make a choice....do I get a choice after death? No. It is appointed for a person to die once, and after that to face judgment. We will eventually realize that Christ is the Lord, but we only have this life to make our choice, according to Jesus. And we already know this to be true, so after death we will be without excuse.

4. What about babies or the mentally unable who die? What about murdered/aborted babies? Bible is not clear, but I would appeal to God's mercy on this one. If they are unable to make a choice because of mental inability, then I believe God is merciful.

5. What about those who have never heard? I posted on this already. Let me know if you want more info. on this on, as this is not the scope of this discussion.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Has the Bible been changed over time?


Short answer- No.

Longer answer-
The earliest complete New Testament (Codex Sinaiticus) is from 350AD.
We have quotes from the early church fathers that quote all but eleven verses of the New Testament. The dates of these quotes go from Clemente in 96AD until the latest quote from Irenaeus in around 188AD.
By way of comparison, the book of Revelation is dated around 90AD.
In short, the Bible from AD188 to the Bible we have today says the exact same thing. There have not been changes or alterations. What you see, is what was written. These are the facts.
Yes, people have TRIED to add things to the Bible or alter the Bible to fit their theology (LDS, Jehovah's Witnesses, Gnostics, etc), but these alterations are NOT accepted. They are thrown out.
The Bible of today is the same Bible that the early church fathers read. You can fully trust that the Bible was preserved.

Even more detail-
1. I have studied the translation & copying process. It is very very thoruough. Plus, if you look at the ealiest manuscripts you will see for yourself how they stack up.
2. There are over 5,300 known ancient Greek manuscript copies (MSS) and fragments of the New Testament in Greek that have survived until today.
Counting an additional 10,000 Latin Vulgate and over 9,300 other early manuscript versions in Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, Gothic, and Ethiopic, totaling over 24,000 surviving manuscripts of the New Testament.
Small changes and variations in manuscripts affect none of the central Christian doctrines, nor do they change the message.
3. Tertullian stated that by 150 A.D., the Church in Rome had compiled a list of the New Testament books matching our list of today.
4. We have 32,000 quotes from before 325 AD, from Irenaeus (182-188 AD), Justin Martyr (before 150 AD), Polycarp (107 AD), Ignatius (100), Clement (96 AD) and many other second and third century fathers. All but eleven verses of the New Testament could be reconstructed through their writings alone.
5. The
Muratonian Canon Fragment dating from 170 AD lists the same New Testament that we have.
6. See the Ante-Nicean Fathers, a 32 volume Encyclopedia of the writings of the Early Church, by Eerdmans Publishing. Or on the Internet see the Early Church Fathers
7. http://biblefacts.org/history/oldtext.html

So, NO the deity of Christ was not manipulated into the system at some council or through some Joe Sixpack. He always claimed to be God. The New Testament writers & those who met Him, believe that He is God & even died for those beliefs. It was not added to in 325AD as some suggest. Nor was it changed by Constantine in around 300AD. It says what it says, it is what it is.

Funny Fart Story

Just happened today & have to share it.
1. A college student (female) was sitting in our youth room in the pitch dark, working on her laptop.
2. My buddy had some massive gas built up, so he found a quiet room to go into to release the "pressure" of the gas. Thinking no one was in there he fired away.
Unfortunately he wasn't alone.
He turned on the lights after he was done with several rounds of loud gas release and to his horror, saw this college girls sitting there.

...guess he is having one of those days.