Thursday, January 17, 2019

A New Command

     A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; 
     as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
     By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, 

     if ye have love one to another.
     (John 13:34, 35)

During the Last Supper, Jesus gave to the disciples (and us) a new commandment. What was wrong with the old ones? Nothing. What Jesus gives to us is a different one in kind. Let me explain.

The Mosaic Law, and specifically the Ten Commandments, tells us what we may NOT do. Let me say that again: The Mosaic Law, and specifically the Ten Commandments, tells us what we may NOT do. Law tells us what not to do, but it doesn't tell us what we should do. Jesus, in giving us this new commandment, is telling us what we ought to do.

Instead of saying "don't do that," Jesus is telling us, "Do this."

Saying to do something, rather than not doing something, is revolutionary. It's liberating.

It is a commandment we can keep.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Never Argue With An Atheist

Whenever I see an article or video online, I like to read over the comments section. I've learned a lot from other people's comments and perspectives on subjects and it has been very valuable. But one of the biggest lessons I learned was to never answer an atheist when they post a comment under a distinctly Christian article or video.

This is not meant as a slam against atheists in general. In America, they are as entitled to their beliefs and opinions as I or we are. Freedom of speech and belief is a good thing. Nor am I talking about the majority of them. I am talking about the 5-10% who bother to post at Christian sites, answer Christian writers, or post under religious videos. I believe these posters are in a minority among their own group. They are often very aggressive and vocal in their disdain for religion and/or Christianity. They are quick to point out "flaws" in the belief system and people. And they trigger people who have opposite views.

It for these triggered people that I write this post. Fellow Christians, please, please - NEVER argue with an atheist online. Slamming a self-professed atheist for slamming Christianity is not the right course of action. We can never win this argument. We definitely cannot win this argument simply with words.

While I believe in defending the faith (it is why this blog exists, after all) I do not believe arguing with people achieves my goal. It is not about arguing, anyway - if anything, the arguing can damage your faith (see Colossians 2:4 and Ephesians 5:6). On some subjects (Noah's Ark and flood, God's nature) most people are not savvy enough to discuss it with someone who claims a scientific or philosophical background. They already know their objections; most of the time we don't know our own defense.

The best defense, IMO, against such arguments is to step away. The better answer is to admit "I don't know" and step away, rather than arguing over something that pushes the other person away from Christ. To admit we don't know means not answering at all.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Yahweh

The most used name for God in the Bible is the name that God uses of Himself. It appears over 6500 times in the Old Testament. When Moses encounters God at the burning bush, he asks, "Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?" (Exodus 3:13) God responds "I Am That I Am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you." (Exodus 3:14) It is a name that states who and what he is - self-existent, with no beginning and no end. "I Am" is the translation of YHWH, or as commonly used today, Yahweh.

Interestingly, the exact pronunciation of this name for God is not known, because Jewish tradition held that it was too holy to speak. Out of fear of breaking the commandment to not take the name of the Lord in vain, the name Yahweh was not used by the Jewish people after the third century A.D. This custom has been adopted by Christian scholars as well. Instead of using the four letters (or Tetragrammaton), the name Adonai or Jehovah is substituted. Yahweh is a later invention by the addition of vowels that were not present in the original. Many Bible versions (Geneva, King James, and others) substitute Jehovah or LORD for the divine name. In the Septuagint version, it is translated kurios, or Lord, or Master.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Jealous

     Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I 
     the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the 
     fathers upon the children unto the  third and fourth generation 
     of them that hate me (Exodus 20:5, KJV)

When God gave the ancient Israelites His law, in what would later be called the Ten Commandments, He revealed to them that He was a jealous God, and expected loyalty and fidelity from them. The Hebrew word used here is qanna, which can mean jealous, zealous, or envy. (Remember in the New Testament there was a guy called Simon the Zealot? The Greek translation of the word qanna is where we get that title.) This description of God is used at least 5 times in the Old Testament.

Some might want to say that this admittance is a weakness on God's part. By admitting He is jealous for His people, somehow this makes Him unworthy to be deity. I disagree. It is a sign of strength. He is telling these people how their relationship will be. He will not share them with anyone else, and He will not allow them to share themselves with anyone else.

Look at it in terms of marriage. Can you imagine a man getting married saying to his bride, "I am going to be married to you, but I am going to see other women. At the ceremony, I will pledge that I will forsake all others, but I really don't mean it. I have other women in mind. Is that ok with you?" We have a word for someone like that: unfaithful. In the spiritual realm, to have other gods while professing belief in the one true God is spiritual unfaithfulness.

This was God's point to the ancient Israelites. Just like in an earthly marriage, He would be faithful to them, and required they were equally faithful to Him. In all the troubles that the kingdom of Israel (and Judah) had, it was never because of God's unfaithfulness. It was always because of theirs. God is presented throughout the Bible as being a husband, and Israel (and the church) being His bride. Just like someone getting married, He does not want to share. He expects His bride to be faithful.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

My Shepherd

David uses a unique name for God in Psalm 23 - Jehovah-Raah, or the Lord is My Shepherd. Using the pastoral imagery he is so familiar with, David reveals God in Psalm 23 as having a relationship with his people like a shepherd does with his sheep. God is not a distant, unfeeling creature. He is a shepherd who lovingly takes care of his flock. Like a good shepherd, God is our provider, finding green pastures where we can feed. He is our protector, exercising His strong arms in our defense. He is our guide to peaceful and restful places, just like a shepherd leading the sheep to still water.

Compared to the gods of the kingdoms surrounding them, the God of Israel is alive and active, attentive to His flock, His people. David's description of God as a shepherd is an intimate and loving picture of how He cares for us.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Our Provider

An interesting description of God occurs only once in the book of Genesis, at chapter 22 verse 4:

     And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh:
     as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it
     shall be seen.


The name Jehovah-jireh means The Lord Will Provide. This verse must be seen in its entire context: the history of Abraham taking Issac to Mount Moriah to be sacrificed. When they reached the top of the mountain, and prepared a place for a sacrifice, Isaac asked "...where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" (Gen. 14:7) Abraham knew he was there to sacrifice Issac. But he answered that the Lord would provide a lamb for the burnt offering.

This is exactly what happened. After the Angel of the Lord stopped Abraham from sacrificing his only son, he found a ram caught by his horns in the dense bushes. God did provide - He provided a substitute for Isaac.

God also provides for us in our ultimate need. Under sin, we deserve the penalty of death. But God provided a substitute - His Son, Jesus - to take our place, and pay our penalty. God provided a way out of our sin, and a way to be restored to a relationship with Him.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

God Almighty

In Genesis 17:1, God reveals Himself to Abram with the name God Almighty, or El Shaddai. This name is used seven times in the Old Testament as a name for God. When the name El Shaddai is being used, God is being described as being strong, powerful, and all sufficient. It is most often used as a blessing or a prayer, asking for God to meet someone's needs, enlarge their fortunes and to give them success in life.

The God of scripture is the powerful one in contrast to other gods. He is more than able to take care of His people, and is more than sufficient for everything we need.