Monday, September 5, 2016

Review: Beowulf

Beowulf Beowulf by Unknown
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not being a scholar on such poems as "Beowulf" and having read it for the first time, I find it was beautifully written and in such a way as you can almost see the poetic imagery in front of your eyes. From the first words of the prologue - "Hear me!" - one may be caught in the trap of, regardless of the poems length of 3182 lines (no fear, only 99 pages), finishing the book in one day.

There is adventure, suspense, anticipation, blood, revenge, fantasy, death, mourning, villains, faith in God, glorious heroes, dreadful monsters, all elements of what makes a great story combined in one. There are moments that you can almost feel the character's emotions, for example, in Wiglaf's failed attempt to revive Beowulf from death and his resignation to the Christian God's will:

"...He was sitting
Near Beowulf's body, warily sprinkling
Water in the dead man's face, trying
To stir him. He could not. No one could have kept
Life in their lord's body, or turned
Aside the Lord's will: world
And men and all move as He orders,
And always have, and always will."

(lines 2853-2859)

For those not familiar and new to reading this kind of poetry, as I am, there is provided a helpful introduction, an informative afterword, and a glossary of names and a diagram of the genealogy of characters mentioned.

I encourage reading the classics. After reading this one, you will know why it is called a classic, and that it has been a classic for centuries.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Review: The Glory and the Shame

The Glory and the Shame The Glory and the Shame by Peter Hocken
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although written 22 years ago, it still seems to reflect present circumstances in the Christian community as a whole, especially in America.  Hocken briefly considers the challenges and impact - negative as well as positive - brought about by the advent of the Holy Spirit in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movement since the beginning of the 20th century up to the time of the books writing, on Christian theology and in the various Christian communities.  Hocken not only takes into account the Catholic charismatic movement but also, to a large extent, the Messianic Jewish movement and the importance of Israel's role as a nation in relation to the larger Pentecostal/Charismatic experience.  He engages history by suggesting that "[a]ny sovereign outpouring of the divine blessing is necessarily unexpected" (p.16), and, therefore, discusses significant acts of God's intervention as "surprises," starting with the book of Acts before jumping into the Spirit's "invasion" of Asuza in the opening years of the 20th century.

His writing is clear and Biblically based, which forms a coherent theological and historical overview of the Pentecostal/Charismatic experience.  His goal is to encourage unity among all the differing Christian parties, including with Jewish believers.  In chapter 23, Hocken offers a very positive, practical, and meaningful way - perhaps overlooked by most all of us - to incorporate the Pentecostal/Charismatic experience with the more traditional believing communities, e.g. Catholic church and the more established Protestant denominations.

It is apparent that Hocken conceives the work of the Spirit as the glory and the disunity among believers, overall and without neglecting it's varied sins, as the shame.

With the recent sharp and divisive controversy regarding the "fire" of the Holy Spirit, this is a book that every Christian pastor, Pentecostal/Charismatic and cessationist, needs to read and use as a framework for discussion within their own respective church leaders and congregations and, of course, among themselves, from every denomination and congregation, formal and informal, traditional and "hip-hop," old and new.  For the surprise invasion of the Holy Spirit is "oriented towards the preparation of God's people as one renewed and restored Church for the return of Jesus" (p.193).
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Sunday, August 7, 2016

Devotion 2: Where is Samuel's God?

"the Lord was with him,
not permitting any word of his to be without effect”
1 Samuel 3:19 (New American Bible)

Samuel is a prime example of someone who became intimately familiar with the God of Israel by virtue of experiencing God's manifestation of Himself to him.

Samuel's words to the people were not merely words of a motivational speaker or one who was able to give wise advice, needed comfort, or timely encouragement - as excellent these things may be - but he spoke with words that were accompanied with divine power.  Words in and of themselves have no desired effect to move people or change circumstances; words of themselves cannot produce intended results.  Divine power is needed to run with the words we speak and to produce what our words have spoken.

God answered Samuel's prayers and what Samuel spoke to the people, God did it!

The people recognized that the Lord was with Samuel, not because he was a good preacher and not merely because his words encouraged or comforted others even if for a temporary time without really resolving the specific issue, but because they saw and experienced for themselves the visible and tangible effects of what he spoke.  As Paul, so Samuel could say, "My message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with the demonstration of the Spirit's power" (1 Corinthians 4:5).

"...Samuel cried out to the Lord...and the Lord answered him."  1 Samuel 7:9

We claim to be in a greater age of the manifestation of the Kingdom of heaven, yet we can't even seem to compete with an Old testament prophet.  We have may preachers proclaiming and promises being made - how many time have you heard, "You believe in the Lord and I guarantee you" this thing or that thing? - but…

We seem to fall far short in effectiveness.

I remember seeing a person pray on the streets of New York City for a man to be raised out of his wheel-chair, and then the praying man walked away leaving the paralytic in his wheelchair.  I will say, ashamedly, that praying man was braver than I was at the time to pray out loud in the streets.  Nevertheless, the man was not healed.  How many times have I prayed for the sick to be healed, the dead to be raised, for God to show himself?  Few, admittedly; and nothing much to show for it.

How will people know that God is Immanuel - "God with us" - if my words and prayers produce nothing.

How can we convince the world that Christ died to raise us to new life if we show that God cannot even heal the sick?

For all the good preachers with great sermons, for all the churches we see dotting the landscape with praying congregations, with all the sermons preached, promises given, and professions of having faith, we lack terribly the power to back up what we say.

I don't say these things to be critical but, in examination of my own life in Christ, this lack is just too easily evident.  For all my faith in the Lord, my life and what I read in the Gospels do not harmonize.

Although, I should really speak only for myself, I think my criticism of the Church at large, at least, in America is valid.  

Tozer says, "If Christianity is ever to survive, God had better work miracles.  Every advancement of God in every country since the early church has been a miracle."  ---  "Voice of a Prophet," p.100.

Where is Samuel's God?

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Romans 7 Continued: In Conversation

I had a email exchange with someone a little while ago regarding his opposition to my opinion at a Bible study that the Christian can overcome sin in this life, even until their death.
This person countered in response to an email I sent him that, “You will note that [in Romans 7:24] Paul states ‘wretched man that...I am.’ That is a present tense verb, 'I am.' It means that Paul is referring to himself in the present, not the past. In order to be referring to his past one of two things must be true, Paul mistakenly used the wrong verb tense (should have used “I was”) or Paul wrote this part years prior to his letter to the Romans and before becoming a Christian and then added it to his letter. The problem with the latter assumption is that before becoming a Christian, Paul viewed his righteousness as “blameless” before he was a Christian. (Philippians 3:6).”
Since he was not open to a different view, I decided not to answer; but if I did, my response would be as follows:



(A) If Rom 7:24 reflects Paul’s present state as a Christian, let us see, for example, some verses where else the present tense is used also in relation to Paul’s spiritual condition at the time of writing this epistle:
  • 1. “I am unspiritual, sold into slavery to sin.”
  • 2. “…sin lives in me…”
  • 3. “…I want to do good, but I cannot…”
  • 4. “…I do the very evil I do not want!”
  • 5. “…captive to the law of sin…”
If Romans 7 is understood as Paul’s experience as a believer, he admits he is in a struggle with sin but also further admits he losses that struggle consistently and always and, therefore, is habitually committing sin; sin always overcomes him. That is the only way to understand it in view of the whole context. As such, the interpretation of the text being demanded is that, as a Christian, the life we can hope to live is no less sinful and worse than the unregenerate or reprobate.
To claim Romans 7 is Paul’s experience as he wrote the epistle is to neglect the fact that the apostle is not discussing obedience to God and righteousness obtained on the basis of faith but on the basis of Torah. The whole point of v.24, contextually considered, is that Paul sees no way of escaping the divine disapproval and judgment through obedience to the Torah; only Christ can deliver him from this merry-go-round of death as depicted in the chapter.
Unless there is the suggestion that the believer is obligated to obey the Torah, Rom 7 has nothing to do with the Christian life because it is not depicting a person under grace trying to obey God, but a person under Torah trying to be obey God and thus win his approval. 
As such, the objection that, “Paul mistakenly used the wrong verb tense" or "wrote this part [of v.24] years prior to his letter to the Romans,” is baseless.
(B) Regarding his mention of Philippians 3:6, first, Paul is referring to a different type of blamelessness; it is the righteous that makes one blameless that comes by the Torah and the righteousness obtained through faith by grace. Note, this righteousness is described as “having confidence in the flesh” (v.4b, NIV; cf. Rom 9:30-10:4).
And, second, although he claims being blameless, however true as far as the Torah is concerned, the apostle admits such righteousness under Torah does not gain God’s approval and, therefore, he denounces both the righteousness and blamelessness thus obtained.Yet, point in fact, there are places where Paul does admit to being blameless on the basis of grace (e.g. 1 Thessalonians 2:10; Acts 23:1, 24:16).
Also, and perhaps surprisingly, Luke’s Gospel claims the blamelessness of certain persons even before Christ was born, and it seems apparent that such a judgment of their character was true.
(C) I will add mention about 1 Timothy 1:15-16 (another verse brought up in our email exchange) where we read Paul’s admission to being not only a sinner but the “chief of sinners” since the argument here is that the apostle is admitting he is a sinner.
To use 1 Timothy 1:15-16 as evidence that Rom 7 depicts the Christian life is to totally misunderstand Paul’s intent. It can be legitimately argued by the context that the apostle is not talking about his experience as a believer at the time he wrote the epistle but, primarily, his sinful condition before his conversion.
1. The context of the verse itself is with reference to Christ as being the Savior of sinners by means of his atoning sacrifice. Its reference seems clearly to be to men as sinners before their conversion.
2. Note the context refers to a past event: “Even though I was once (“before,” Strong’s #4386; πρότερος proteros)…I was shown mercy…” (v.13, NIV); "the grace of our Lord was...abundant" (v.14, NASB); “I was shown mercy…as an example” (v.16, NIV, cp.NET). These verses, as translated, allude to a past event, which clearly points to the time he was persecuting the Church.
3. NT Greek language resources and commentaries I have all refer to Paul as pointing to his past when he claims to be the “worst of sinners,” although they admit he is not excluding his present condition as a sinner, even if forgiven:
  • Linguistic & Exegetical Key to the Greek NT: “Pres. ‘I am,’ not, ‘I was.’ The sinner remains a sinner even if forgiven; the past is always there as a stimulus to deeper penitence and service” (489).
  • Word Pictures, Robertson: “He had sad memories of those days” (4:564).- UBS Handbook: Timothy & Titus: “The focus here is not on Paul’s moral lapses or immoral conduct but on his rejection of Christ…and the greatness of Christ’s act of bestowing on him new life…” (34).
  • Expositions, Maclaren: “We carry with us ever the fact of past transgression…” (15:331).
  • Expositor’s Bible: “Paul felt that of all sinners he was ‘the worst’…because he had persecuted Christ’s followers…” (11:355).
The point I touch on here is that regardless of whatever position one takes with respect to Paul's spiritual condition at the time he wrote 1 Timothy, the context here respecting his statement as being a sinner and the “chief of sinners” rests on his past condition, not on his present experience and actions, and has no reference to any sins (if any) committed either as a believer since his conversion or when he wrote this letter. As such, his admission to being a sinner, even the “chief of sinners,” is not because he is in the present habit of committing sins - doing what he wants to omit doing or omitting what he wants done (Rom 7) - as a believer.
Any use of 1 Timothy 1:15-16 to defend the view that Romans 7 depicts Paul is referring to his experience as a believer is unwarranted.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Review: Renewal Theology: Salvation, the Holy Spirit, and Christian Living

Renewal Theology: Salvation, the Holy Spirit, and Christian Living Renewal Theology: Salvation, the Holy Spirit, and Christian Living by J. Rodman Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Williams continues the plain, clear, non-controversial discussion of theology systematically covering salvation, the Holy Spirit, and Christian Living. Again, as I stated in my review of volume 1, this is a great beginner book on theology for someone seeking to understand Biblical concepts without fussing and trying to sort through various competing theologies and high-sounding doctrinal positions.

But, more than that, this volume offers the charismatic perspective, which would do well for any Christian to read and gain a balanced insight and understanding into the various types, modes of operation, personal applications, and the differences between what is meant by "spiritual gifts" as opposed to "natural talents." This is a must read for anyone unsure about the pentecostal/charismatic view or is just plain against it (cessationist) who is ready for the challenge to his uninformed or preconceived notions about the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts.

He also provides clarity to issues like regeneration, justification and sanctification without going beyond what the Bibles reveals, without countering opposing views, and without philosophical argumentation, delving lightly into controversial topics in a non-confrontational tone like the security of salvation and the possibility of apostasy.

Let me be clear, if one is looking for a book to discuss all the varieties of doctrinal beliefs and theological views, this is not the book. It's purpose is to teach what the Bible teaches and lead readers "more deeply into the truths that He alone can reveal" through the plain exposition of Scripture in a systematized fashion without cluttering or obstructing it with differing points of doctrinal opinions.

The new Christian seeking understanding to gain a better grasp of God's purposes for his life, the old Christian seeking to trod again the "old paths" and regain the simplicity of following Christ, both will benefit from reading and re-reading "Renewal Theology," vol.2.

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Saturday, July 2, 2016

On Transgenderism as Demonic Influence

I think that this is an article every thinking Christian should read in order to better understand the primary issue regarding the LGBTQ community, with specific reference to transgenderism.  The acceptance by certain Christian communities of homosexuality and its various accompanying lifestyle make this article all the more relevant and important:



Review: History of the Christian Church: Ante-Nicene Christianity A.D. 100-325

History of the Christian Church: Ante-Nicene Christianity A.D. 100-325 History of the Christian Church: Ante-Nicene Christianity A.D. 100-325 by Philip Schaff, vol.2
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Although, probably much outdated, it is a good read. The "History" starts from the death of the last apostle, John (c.100), to the beginning of Constantine's rise as the Roam emperor. However, the discussion is not on Constantine but briefly on Eusebius and two other of his contemporaries during Constantin'e reign.

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Review: Predestination: The American Career of a Contentious Doctrine

Predestination: The American Career of a Contentious Doctrine Predestination: The American Career of a Contentious Doctrine by Peter J. Thuesen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent an enlightening narrative of the "contentious doctrine" of predestination in America from the puritans until now, and he briefly covers it's history from the time of the apostle Paul to Augustine, Medievalism to the Reformation, Arminianism to the English Reformation, and finally, to American Puritanism. In subsequent chapters, he deals with the contention in America covering it's impact or influence even in Catholicism, Mormonism, unitarianism and other religious bodies or groups. He even mentions to my surprise, how the some parts of the African American community had adherents to Calvinism, even hyper-Calvinism. Personally, I never realized how contentious predestination was, especially, to the point of having records of people having mental illnesses/breakdowns from it's belief in its Calvinistic form. For some reason, my only disappointment was that the author did not state, at the end of the book, his position; I am interested to know.

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Review: Old Yeller

Old Yeller Old Yeller by Fred Gipson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Yep, I get into reading a children's book sometimes. Trying to catch up from my Grammar School days. Anyway, this was about as good and exciting as the movie, perhaps better. And the ending sure bummed me out. But the ending was great and a good lesson on issues of life and death. I especially like the heart-to-heart talk Travis has with his father about Old Yeller. He doesn't provide a simplistic answer to death and is sort of loss for words of comfort, but he tells him the rough truth: "...things like that happen. They may seem might cruel and unfair, but that's how life is part of the time" (p.116).

I read this book with my 9-year-old Grandson and, although I got a bit ahead of him and finished it without him, this is a great book to the kids or Grandkids. The only problem you may have is with the archaic words.

This book is as it should be, a classic, and one of the best.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Review: Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities

Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities by Roger E. Olson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an excellent book for anyone seeking to understand Arminian theology properly, that is, as taught by James Arminius. Many Calvinists have a grave misunderstanding of classical Arminianism basically, I think, because they may not have not read Arminius' "Works" (I wonder if apologists like James White or theologians like MacArthur read it). In any case, Olson gives a very readable - not at all technical - understanding of Arminianism comparing the erroneous assertions made as to what it teaches with what Arminius himself and those who followed him taught . He admits that some who call themselves Arminians have strayed away from Arminius' teachings, however, it cannot be denied that even Calvinist have done the same with John Calvin. The value in "Arminian Theology" is the clarity he gives to Arminius' teachings and points exactly where others have gotten it all wrong; and, I must admit, in my experience discussing Arminianism as compared to Calvinism, the Calvinist brings up these exact misrepresentations of Arminianism as Olson points out in the book. It also helped me tremendously by pointing out areas where I have misunderstood Arminianism. For the Calvinist and the Arminian this a must read; and for the novice in theology who has an interest in reading Arminius' "Work", I suggest you read Olson's book first.

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Review: Joel and the Spirit: The Cry of a Prophetic Hermeneutic

Joel and the Spirit: The Cry of a Prophetic Hermeneutic Joel and the Spirit: The Cry of a Prophetic Hermeneutic by Larry R. McQueen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As noted in the preface, "This study brings the themes of the book of Joel into conversation with emerging Pentecostal scholarship..." (p.7).

Unfortunately, I must admit I am new to Pentecostal scholarship and not very knowledgeable of Pentecostalism, although my personal Christian experience has interacted with the views of Pentecostalism (even before I was actually aware of it's existence). In any case, that is just to say that I may not have been able to enjoy the full impact of this book not being fully cognizant to the issues revolving around Pentecostalism's thought and spirituality. Nevertheless, this book is a valuable read for any person of any Christian theological view or denominational persuasion, and much that is said can be applied to the Church universally.

As I understand it, McQueen sees the book of Joel as giving quality to contemporary Pentecostal tradition and as the basis for envisioning Pentecostalism for purposes of renewal.

In the introduction, the author discusses the hermeneutics from the "classical" Pentecostal perspective and then turns to a brief and general review of the book of Joel in light of "previous works."

In chapter 2, he discusses the thesis of the book of Joel as (a) having three movements: lament, salvation, and (what perhaps may have been an issue overlooked by other commentators or scholars), judgment, and (b) that these movements "provides a framework of progression of the relationship" between God and Judah (p.21).

In chapter, he shows how the New Testament appropriated the "themes of Joel" (discussed in chapter 2) to "provide a theological framework for understanding the gift of the Spirit," which he identifies preeminently, so it seems to me, as (a) ushering in the last days; (b) the immediate divine presence and communication to his people and, in consequence, (c) the establishing of a prophetic community (p.44). As such, respecting disciple's experience and Peter's sermon in consequence of the public display of the gift of tongues in Acts 2, "The tongues-speech of the disciple is interpreted by Peter as the manifestation of prophetic inspiration," which "characterizes the last days and is the primary sign of the present of the Spirit" (p.51)

In chapter 4, McQueen shares "how the Pentecostal movement has appropriated the major themes of [lament, salvation, judgment in] the book of Joel" in a way similar to how they were seen as being applied in the New Testament ((p.74), and thereby engages Pentecostal history, theological studies, testimonies, and even the lyrics of a song throughout the chapter. One of his conclusions is that the "early Pentecostals were living signs of eschatological salvation and judgment" (p.92).

In the final chapter, McQueen "provides some reflection on [the] method" of Pentecostal hermeneutics, and does so, interestingly, from personal experience in the writing of this book, contending that "there is more to Pentecostal hermeneutics than reader and text...open to a radically subversive element which stands outside both the Bible text and the interpreter, that is, the critical claim of the Holy Spirit" (p.108).

I have found this reading to be most instructive as to the emphasis that the book of Joel has for the contemporary Church the greater realization of the significance of the Spirit, not only for Biblical interpretation but also for the meaning, character, and method of witness the Church is to live out in the world today.

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Monday, June 6, 2016

Devotion 1: Repentance


What is "repentance"?

It is the last word - the sum total of God's call to men as sinners - proclaimed in the Torah and by the last of the Hebrew prophets, John the Baptist.

In continuity with the prophets of Israel in the Hebrew Scriptures, and in the tradition of John the Baptist, it is the first word of God's call to men as sinners proclaimed by the Son of God, Jesus Christ, carried forward by the apostolic and early Church witnesses; it is the message that continue today, in these the last days since Pentecost, the divine imperative, never watered down through the ages up to today.

It is the call of God to men to abandon their own way of life and live to God's will.  Repentance is the walk of Man's return to the Garden of Eden.

It is the divine call that has an eye to the Kingdom of God, that is, God's all-encompassing glory exposed and ruling over all the earth with absolute moral goodness.  Consequently, it implies both warning and promise: the promise of a new life in a new age for a new people in a new earth centered in a new city.  And the warning of divine retribution against men as sinners who oppose his rule, refusing to align themselves now - not tomorrow, but now - with the imminent and inevitable reign of God's Son, Jesus Christ over all of heaven and earth.

"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."
Matthew 3:3 (NET)

Saturday, December 12, 2015

We need revival..

"He who does what is right
is righteous
just as he is righteous"
(1 John 3:7b, NIV)

We need revival yet, if we are going to see revival, I think there are some things we need to confront and come to terms with.

1.  If we have sinned we need to repent.  We cannot claim to be holy as Christ is holy if we live in sin.  The reality of our faith is found, not in mere words, but in deeds (James 2:22).  Struggling with guilt is not dealing with sin.  If you sin, you should feel guilty, and the only way to remove the guilt is to repent from your sin and turn to the Cross of Christ to wash it away by his blood; that is, in a nutshell, to "cease from sin and do good" (Psalm 37:27).

2.  As the Church, we need to stop calling ourselves "sinners". We are not sinners. God now calls us "saints."  In many places in practically all his epistles, Paul identifies believers in Christ as "saints."  Nowhere does he refer to God's people as sinners.  We will only lower the standard and always have the greatest difficulty in overcoming the fallenness of our flesh if we continue to identify ourselves with sinners, that is, with those who in refusing to come to Christ are demonstrating their hatred for God and, as such, stand as his enemies (John 3:19-20; Romans 8:7; Philippians 3:18; James 4:4).

3.  We need to stop using the Bible as a comforter for any sin and the sinful lifestyle.  We need to stop assuaging our guilt by satisfying ourselves with the Bible's portrayal, however honest, of God's people in their weaknesses and failings.  We need to stop taking comfort in our sin by the sad fact that even the Bible shows men and women of God less than perfect.  We will never reach the goal of holy living here and now if we continue to look away from the righteousness of God's people and focus on their shortcoming and sins.

The Bible reveals the acts of his people honestly.  However, it is not so we can emulate them in their sin or take comfort that they also sinned and, therefore, expect only a continuation of living a life falling in sin, defeated by it's allure.  Men and women are portrayed with such dreaded honesty in the Bible so we can see the grace of God, through His promises, at work in their lives as demonstrative of that same grace that is directed towards us and more than sufficient to overcome sin and the irresponsible and unwise lifestyle.

I'm often reminded of this anonymous poem when I read about the failings of God's people in the Bible:
"Wouldn't this old world be better, If the folks we meet would say: I know something good about you, And then treat us just that way!"*
For example, I may hear preaching about Aaron's sinful foolhardiness in making the calf idol, but I never heard a sermon about Aaron's desperate run to head off a plague God sent against the Israelites for their rebellion.  It is where he shows himself to be truly a "man of God" in every sense of the word.

Concerning Aaron when the Israelites were being punished by a deadly plague for their rebellion, a blogger writes, "Aaron now displays a devotion to his office of mediation between God and the people.  Whereas, in the first case 'the Lord struck the people with a plague, because of what they did with the calf which Aaron had made,' we see later on that Aaron 'took his stand between the dead and the living so that the plague was checked.' In the former instance, he was a mediator for death but in the latter he became mediator for life."

Another example is Lot.  How often we hear what a worldly fool of a sinner was Lot.  I've yet to hear it preached what a righteous man was Lot, for 3 times in one sentence is he designated as righteous in the New Testament: "righteous Lot," "righteous man," "righteous soul" (2 Peter 2:7-8).

It is not a matter of denying our sinful thoughts, words, or actions, or ignoring the sins of God's people as if they are not recorded in the Bible.  It is a matter of where we ought to focus our faith in God.  Focus on our failings, and we will fail.  Comfort ourselves with the sins committed by those in the Bible, and we dull the conviction of the Spirit in our conscience. Looking at ourselves and others as merely "sinners saved by grace," and we will miss the experience of grace that empowers to holy living.

What does the Bible exhort us to do but to "fix your thoughts on Jesus" (Hebrews 3:2 NIV).

It is not denying our failures and the sins we do commit.  It is not denying where we once were before Christ.  It is to affirm the power of the Cross to grant us  forgiveness and overcome our failures and sinful actions; it is to affirm our position as God’s “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

If we are to stand together above the squalor and shipwreck of our fallen state and show the world we are the people of God in the demonstration of the power of the Spirit that we say we possess in Christ, we must abandon sin, recover our calling as saints, and proclaim the righteousness of those men and women of God whom the Bible records as having overcome.

------------

* http://margiesmessages.com/Iknowsom.htm

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Part 5: Jesus & Muhammed

This is my final message on the subject regarding why I believe Jesus is God as opposed to the Islamic belief that he is not God.

Last time we discussed how in the Qur'an, unlike Muhammed, Jesus is said to be the object of faith with a warning, at least implied, that to disbelieve him would bring divine judgment from God who knows all things, especially the hearts of men.

In addition, I notice that the Qur’an (in agreement with the New Testament), also claims that Jesus works miracles.


Jesus: the Miracle-Worker

In addition, I notice that the Qur'an (in agreement with the New Testament) also claims that Jesus works miracles.  

At the announcement of Jesus' birth to Mary, the angel tells her that God will appoint Jesus as an “apostle to the Children of Israel (with this message): ‘I have come to you with a sign from the Lord, in that I make for you out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, and breathe into it and it becomes a bird by God’s leave: and I heal those born blind, and the lepers, and I quicken the dead, by God’s leave’…” (Sura 3:49).

As a matter of fact, there are a few places in the Qur’an that claim Jesus performed miracles; see here

However, also in the Qur’an and in stark contrast, Muhammed is shown not to have performed any miracles.  He seems to be unwilling or unable to prove his mission by attesting “signs and wonders.”

In S 3:183, God tells the prophet that if they ask from him a miracle to prove you are His prophet, he is to answer by saying (and I paraphrase), “Why should I perform a wonder since you rejected the miracles performed by past prophets?”

In S 17:90-93, Muhammed is challenged to prove he is a prophet of God, yet he responds, “I’m only a mortal man,” suggesting to me that he is unable to perform the miracles demanded to prove his prophetic office as assigned by God.

Apparently, there are places in the Qur’an where a miracle is demanded from Muhammed to authenticate his mission as divine, yet he is, at least, unwilling and, possibly, unable to do so; for example, see here.

Of course, there are places in the Hadith claiming Muhammed performed miracles but the Hadith, as I understand, was not written under divine inspiration.  Please see here for further consideration: 

However, there are many places in the Bible that show Jesus performing “signs and wonders” as prophesied by the Hebrew prophets (e.g. Isaiah 35:4-6; 53:5, cp. Matthew 4:23) authenticating his words and mission as divine while, at the same time, proving his divinity (Mark 2:10-12).

From my perspective, the New Testament provides indisputable evidence that Jesus is who he claims to be and what he claims to be is more than a mere prophet of God like Muhammed.  Jesus claims to be someone greater than any man, even the prophet Muhammed; for, while the Qur’an admits that Muhammed is a mere man, the Bible forcefully demonstrates that Jesus is God as recorded in the New Testament and as prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures ( the Old Testament).

As the man healed of blindness answered the harsh interrogations of Jesus’ ruling religious opponents seeking to charge Jesus with blasphemy, “If this man were not from God, he could do nothing” miraculous like healing the blind (John 9:33).

The message of the Gospel of Christ faces one today with the same question Jesus asked his disciples, which demanded from them an immediate answer: “Who do you say that I am?”

Conclusion

I have shown 5 reasons why I believe Jesus is God as opposed to the Islamic belief that he is not compared to the person of Muhammed as depicted in the Qur’an and the person of Jesus as he is depicted in both the Bible and the Qur’an.  To review, we saw that Jesus is
  1. a man of Peace
  2. Sinless
  3. the Messiah
  4. the Object of Faith
  5. a Miracle-Worker 

I can only pray that these 5 brief articles on why I believe Jesus is God will encourage readers to make an objective investigation for themselves concerning what the Bible says about Jesus and come to their own conclusions.  I will not keep secret that you will come to a conclusion that compels you to embrace the revelation that Jesus is God.

I welcome any questions, criticisms, and/or corrections regarding what I have written and a mature dialogue is always welcome.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Part 4: Jesus & Muhammed

Review: Jesus the “Anointed One”

Last time, for a brief review, I shared how only Jesus - and no one else, not even Muhammed - is affirmed as the “anointed One” in both the Bible and the Qur’an.  As such, as I already stated, it would make sense to suppose Jesus must be of far greater significance and superiority than Muhammed.  There were two points made showing Jesus’ superiority over Muhammed:
  • First, the Arabic “masih” may be translated “very anointed” or “most anointed.”
  • Second,  the word “masih” needs to be understood from its use in the Hebrew Bible from where the word is translated.  As such, “messiah,” is mentioned in the New Testament,  alongside the title, “Son of God,” which, at the very least, identify Jesus as more than a mere man and  vastly superior to Muhammed.
Here I will be brief so as not to take advantage of my reader's time.

Part 4:  Jesus is the Object of Faith

In Sura 4:170, the Qur’an reads, “O mankind!  The Apostle hath come to you in truth from God; believe in him: it is best for you,  But if ye reject Faith, to God belong all things…” (The last phrase seems to suggest God will know if you have rejected his Apostle and, consequently, will judge you accordingly).

It seems to me from the context that the identity of the “Apostle” points specifically to Jesus for the next verse warns of believing that Jesus was more than an apostle, that is, God (cf. vs.171ff).  However, even if its reference is meant to understood as a general reference to all messengers of God, nevertheless, the Quran teaches that one must believe, if not specifically in Jesus, at least, all the messengers of God in whom Jesus was one.  Therefore, if one chooses not to believe in Jesus, it seems to suggest that he or she places their life in eternal danger.

Even the Bible says that one should believe in the prophets of God and for pretty much the same reason as stated in the Qur’an:  “Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper” (2 Chronicles 20:20).  And, if we are to believe that Jesus is a prophet of God, then we are obligated as God-followers to trust in him.

However, Jesus goes further when he says, “If you trust in God, then trust also in me” (John 14:1).  In addition, he claims, “I m the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father unless he comes through me.”

As the Qur’an teaches that the prophets of God must be trusted, so the Bible also teaches the same.  And if we are to obey the prophets of God, then we must believe in Jesus,the prophet sent by God, to tell us that if we are trusting in God, then we must also trust him; and that it is only through him that access to God is given.  No man, Jesus says, can come before God except through the One whom he sent, namely, Jesus himself.

Unfortunately, this may be where the rubber meets the road because, although both the Qur’an and the Bible teach that we are to obey the prophets of God, these two books believed to be sacred hold contradictory positions regarding Jesus’ person.  Whereas the Bible seems to show that Jesus is God in the flesh, the Qur’an teaches that he is no more than a man and not God.

I think it would be a good idea to quickly review what we learned the Qur’an teaches about Jesus.

First we learned that Jesus is the embodiment of peace.  We also leaned that he is sinless and that he is Messiah, that is, the deliverer or savior.  And we saw that all these attributes are possessed only by God.  In God is peace, and if Jesus is peace, it is in him alone where we can find our peace.  God is holy, without sin.  The man that can claim sinlessness can claim to be God.  The Qur’an teaches the Jesus was sinless.  In spite of the Qur’an’s denial of Jesus divinity, nevertheless, Jesus is asserted to possess an attribute uniquely God’s and God’s alone.  Whoever is said to be sinless necessarily, by definition of what God is in his essential nature, is also shown to be God.  Finally, Jesus is named Messiah (the “anointed one”), a name given to no other person, not even the prophet Muhammed; he alone is savior of men.  While God has his many men as divinely-gifted prophets, God has only one Anointed Messiah/Savior; and his name is Jesus “who will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).  And, finally, we saw that Jesus is an apostle to whom credence is to be rendered by the command of God.

The cumulation of all these facts, at least to me, points to the truthfulness of the Biblical attestation that Jesus is God in the flesh: “…the Word was God…and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:1,14).

Jesus said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).

Islam teaches it is impossible; Jesus cannot be God.

However, if God is God, and it is affirmed that God can do the impossible, then God can become a man without lessening his divine essence or becoming anything less than human.  If it were not impossible, if it were something that was easy to do, there would be no more reason to believe that Jesus is God than to believe that ice can turn to water or that wood in the fire can turn into ash.

The proof of divinity is might be clearly seen in the fact that its occurrence of the impossible and only God is capable of accomplishing the impossible.

In my next installment, I wish to discuss what in my opinion is conclusive and irrefutable evidence that Jesus is God.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Part 3: Jesus & Muhammed

A Word to the Muslim Community

I pray these brief discussions on why I believe Jesus is God are challenging.  If any professing Muslim reading this finds any place where they feel I have misunderstood or misrepresented the Qur’an, please let me know and I’ll try to either clarify my meaning or make the proper corrections.

Correction is the mother of understanding.

In Review: Jesus is Sinless

In my last message we saw that the Qur’an, in agreement with the Bible, teaches that Jesus is sinless.  Furthermore, we saw that both the Qur’an and the Bible teach that all men without exception are sinners.  However, we also noted that these two teachings -  Jesus is sinless and all men are sinners - poses a contradiction inherent in the writings of the Qur’an if, as it also teaches, Jesus is a mere man.  

That is, if the Qur’an teaches that JesusChrist is merely a man and not God as a man, namely, then to also teach that he is sinless - an attribute only God possesses - while at the same time teaching that all men are sinners poses a self-contradiction.  However, these two seeming contradictory propositions - that Jesus is sinless while all men are sinners - is resolved in the Bible which teaches that Jesus is both God and man; Jesus is fully God because he is holy and only God is holy, and Jesus is also fully man yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15; 7:26).  

It is my contention that, in order to maintain the integrity of the any written source as divine revelation, self-contradictory propositions cannot be found written in the text; and wherever they are found, a coherent resolution to the text from the text must be found.  God does not contradict himself. 

Leaving the issue of Jesus’ sinlessness in the Qur’an, we come to the next reason why I believe Jesus is God.

Part 3: Jesus is the “Anointed One”

The Bible declares that Jesus is Mashiach or Messiah, which in Hebrew means “anointed one”.  In the Greek New Testament, the Hebrew for Mashiach is translated as “Xpiotos” in Greek, which is then translated as “Christ in English.”

“NT preaching, especially among Jews, focuses on presenting Jesus as the Christos,” and the apostle “Paul anguishes over the fact that his Jewish brothers do not acknowledge [Jesus as] Christ” (“Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary,” p.109).

The Qur’an, in agreement with the Bible, teaches that Jesus is Mashiach, that is, al-Masih:
  • “…his name will be Christ Jesus”(Sura 3:45)
  • “That they said (in boast), ‘We killed Christ Jesus’…”(Sura 4:157).
First, it should be noted that the term “Christ” is not a name but a title.  In Matthew 1:21, the angel of the Lord, appearing to Mary declares that she will give a miraculous birth to a son whom she is commanded to give the name of Jesus “because he will save his people from their sins.”

“Jesus” is the Greek for the Hebrew, “Joshua,” which means “Jah saves” or “God saves,” and that is the name Mary gave her Son: Jesus.  However, the term “Christ” is not his name but his title, his office as the One whom God sent to earth.

In any case, the Qur’an, in agreement with the Bible, declares that Jesus is the “Christ,” that is “the anointed one.”  I have found eight references in the Qur’an that either directly name Jesus as Messiah or indirectly reference him as such.  For brevity’s sake, I cite three, which have direct reference: 
  • “his name will be Christ Jesus” (Surah 3:45)
  • “their saying: We killed the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Allah’s messenger.” (Surah 4:157).
  • “Christ Jesus the son of Mary” (Surah 4:171).
Admittedly, the Qur’an warns both Jew and Christian not to think of Jesus as more than a messenger from God, that is, a mere man; but, then again, when you consider what we previously learned about Jesus in the Qur’an - that he is peace and he is sinless - it is legitimate to question whether such a warning makes sense.

In addition, unless I am mistaken, not even Muhammed is given this title in the Qur’an, nor anyone else, for that matter, either in the Qur’an or the Bible.  Considering if the leading prophet of Islam is not vested with the title of “the anointed one,” it would make sense to suppose Jesus must be of greater significance and superiority than Muhammed and, if I am correct, the question that needs to be asked is, in what sense is Jesus greater than Muhammed?

First, in Arabic, the word “masih” is “an "intensive form" that often indicates "a very high degree of the quality which their subject possesses or an act which is done with frequency…by their subject” and “is grammatically capable of carrying the idea of ‘very anointed’ or ‘most anointed’ both of which would express a very high degree of the quality which their subject possesses” (cited from “A Grammar of the Arabic Language,” vol. 1, Edited by W. Wright, L.L.D, copyright 1967, p. 136 ; see http://www.answering-islam.org/Authors/Memsuah/al-masih.htm).  If such a definition for “masih” is correct, then again, it indicates Jesus as having greater significance and superiority over Muhammed.

Therefore, we see that in one sense, the divine anointing on Jesus is greater than what Muhammed, as merely a “messenger of God,” is claimed to possess.

Second, the title of “Messiah,” given only to Jesus “appears in the Qur'an after Muhammad has made some contact with the Jews and Christians of Arabia. Clearly Qur'anic use of the title is linked to Jewish and Christian beliefs about the Messiah. Therefore, we must go into Jewish expectations and Christian beliefs about the Messiah to find out what the title means” (http://www.answering-islam.org/Gilchrist/titles).

Admittedly, while the Qur’an denies it, the New Testament identifies the Messiah (al-Masih) as the Son of God:
  • “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).
  • “ Nathaniel (John 1:49).
  • “the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1)
  • “I believe you are Messiah, Son of God” (John 11:27).
  • “tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.  Jesus said, You have said it” (Matthew 26:63-64).
  • Even demons recognized Jesus as Messiah, the Son of God when he commanded them to depart: “And demons also came out of many, crying, You are the Son of God!  But he rebuked them, and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Messiah” (Luke 4:41).

“By offering no explanation of this title, the Qur’an is at the same time making no contest against the accepted longstanding beliefs of the Jews and Christians about the Messiah. To both he is far more than just a messenger. The title in Jewish and Christian scriptural usage clearly implies greatness of such a degree that all the true messengers of God will ultimately bow to him in homage and obeisance. By admitting the Christian contention that Jesus is the Messiah, the Qur’an is in fact implying that he is the ultimate man of glory in human history and that he is the one who is the final expression of the revelation of God to men” (ibid).

Therefore, in another sense, we see that Jesus, identified as the Son of God, signifies his possession of eternally divine qualities equal to God; in other words, “like father, like son.”

In my next installment, we will see that the Qur’an warns us to trust in Jesus; unlike Muhammed, to make Jesus our object of faith with a warning of dire consequences.