Sunday, November 20, 2016

So Many Dry Bones

With the hand of Adonai upon me, Adonai carried me out by his Spirit and set me down in the middle of the valley, and it was full of bones. He had me pass by all around them — there were so many bones lying in the valley, and they were so dry! He asked me, “Human being, can these bones live?” I answered, “Adonai Elohim! Only you know that!” Ezekiel 37:1-3 (CJB)
 I've read this passage countless times, and it's come to be one of my favorite stories in the Bible because of the wide range of applications throughout the entire chapter. In every context it's read in, there's something new to be learned. At this stage in my life, however, one specific context almost overwhelms me.

 The bones of Israel, God's people, were "so many," and "so dry." This is a representation of hopelessness and despair. God's own people, the army of God's chosen nation, defeated. Their bones were scattered throughout a valley, which is another depiction of brokenness. This valley is a low point, not a mountain. They did not die in their hope and the glory of their former victories. They died in a valley, surrounded by mountains, closed in, and defeated. Their bodies were not even given the dignity of burial, but were left uncovered for the vultures to eat, for their flesh to rot in the sun, and stripped of every honor bestowed to common man. The image here is a man of God being called Ben-Adam (which means "Human Being," or "Son of Man"), being shown a destitute, decaying army of bones that once belonged to people not unlike himself. Imagine being shown a valley of bones of servicemen left unburied and on American soil. It calls to mind every form of defeat and shame; for the army, for the civilians, for the entire nation.

 Then God has the audacity to query Ezekiel, "can these bones live?"
 Ezekiel's response shows a great faith, in my opinion one of the greatest signs of trust seen in the entirety of the Bible; "Adonai Elohim (Sovereign Lord)! Only You know that!"
 In this broken place, he still calls the Lord Sovereign, still makes the statement that His Name is Victorious in all He sets out to do. Ezekiel is saying that God has the victory, even in this defeat of His people. What I would do to have the faith to call Him Victorious, even when all I can see is the failure of His chosen nation!

 This hits me very close to home, because in the past months there have been times of severe discouragement in my life. In my relationship with my wife, in her health, in our finances, in nearly every aspect of our lives we have faced some form of despair. In those times, when friends and family have tried to use the Word of God to encourage me, my cynical mind recalls the fates of those "heroes of faith". They've all died, and often in some form of misery and without seeing His promises fulfilled. My discouragement in these scenarios comes from my answer to God when He asks, "can these bones live?"

 When He asks if the remains of the lives of these "heroes" can still live today, I am too eager to say "yes!"
 If I were to answer with "no," it would show an obvious lack of trust in His faithfulness.
 When I answer too quickly by saying, "Yes, Lord! You can do this miracle!" I'm not just saying He's able. I'm saying my trust is based upon His action in the observable and tangible now.

In Hebrews chapter eleven, we read of many who were faithful. It's been dubbed the "Chapter of Faith." I believe a more literal (not to mention applicable) translation of the word used for faith in that chapter is trust. It's the Chapter of Trust to me. By trusting, Abraham lived as if the promises of God would come to pass. But Abraham didn't see his descendants become "as numerous as the specks of dust" (or grains of sand, if you will). Nevertheless he still lived as if it would happen because he trusted God to do as He said He would. He didn't know how it would happen, but he simply decided that the Lord alone knew how and when it would happen.

 "Can these bones live?"
 Ezekiel's answer was not one of slight doubt but of absolute trust; "Sovereign Lord! Only You know that!" He didn't trust in what he would come to see happen, and he didn't doubt the Lord. He trusted that God would do what God intended to do (Sovereign Lord!), and he trusted that God would do what He promised to do, and nothing less; if God were to promise something, it would be possible (Only You know...!)

 May we be encouraged knowing that God is faithful to His Word, and that He will hold to His promises. May we not be encouraged by the things we hope He does in our lives, but may we be encouraged by the trust we have in Him to use our lives beyond the ways that we can see.
 The despair we are facing today may not be used in ways we can see to bring us hope. Just as it may not be for us but for His glory that He will act, I will trust Him in that. I will trust Him to know what He will do, and I will not lose hope if He does not use it in my lifetime.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Pointing Fingers

 I know a great many people, late teens through thirties, facing a chronic adolescence. Some take pride in their prolonged immaturity, others are ashamed of it.  There are many that live games; video games, board games, card games, whatever kind of game you can imagine.
 I want to point out that i have this immaturity issue as well, in many ways, and it's by a force of will that it is put to rest. This was once a crutch of mine; as someone who was vying for the top position of the worldwide leaderboard on a video game, six hours of this video game in a single day was not uncommon. It's shameful in hindsight, but at the time i took pride in it.
 It can be about music, movies, tv shows, books, anything that keeps us "amused" (from the Greek, meaning non-inspired).

 I want to say that if you're more concerned knowing the top 200 on the Billboard charts than you are about knowing your Maker, you have messed up priorities. If you'are more excited about seeing that movie than you are about seeing a life changed, you have messed up priorities. In fact, Christ demands we hate all else in comparison to Him.
 God's first command to us was to multiply and fill the earth; this is to be productive, not to just exist here. Be productive! Get up, go outside, build something (maybe a legitimate relationship), work towards a goal, accomplish it, be productive. Fill the earth. What purpose or skill set is that remote control nurturing but more immaturity? It serves no purpose in life. None. It is a- (meaning non) musing (meaning inspiring). Amusements, amusements, amusements. That's what society tells us makes us happy.

 With this immature generation and its lack of "growing up," for lack of better term, comes a gross lack of responsibility. We have people who lack the commitment to stay with one person for more than a few months, people who are convinced that everything is someone else's fault; in this we have twenty-five year olds who are financially broke despite every chance given to them (myself), thirty year olds who blame every circumstance for their present state, and this is wrong.
Society has convinced those my age that nothing is our fault, that our problems are caused by others; we're poor because of the rich-class, we're depressed because others bully us, we have acne because of our genes--it doesn't end.
 More than this, we have a tendency to blame God, saying that we wouldn't have eaten from the Tree of Knowledge, but we're fools. We say it's not fair for us to die because of the sin of Adam. We say a lot of things, but i want to offer a question: are we paying for Adam's sin, or for our own? We can't blame God, we can't blame Adam, we can't blame our parents. No one will be standing beside us on the Day of Judgement, none to point fingers at, none to place the blame on; just you and God, just me and God, each of us, alone with our sin and the Judge.
 In this same train of thought, we can't blame external forces for our misfortunes.

 I am currently trying to make up for years of financial frivolousness, and i could sit here and say it's my parents fault for having not been more stern about teaching me to budget, but it comes down to this; i was stupid, i was careless, and i made mistakes. Instead of saving money and investing wisely, i spent my paycheck. And i know many others who do the same. But i can't blame my parents, the financial system, or anyone but myself.
 If you can't get out of your rut, then get out and push. Roll up your sleeves, get dirty, do something about it. For me, the hardest thing has been to learn financial responsibility. It's taken me a lot of work, and a seriously force of will, but i have learned to budget.
 We must all put down the remote, the games, the movies, and grow up. We must stop blaming others, realize the fault is our own, and start working today, in our means, to right the wrongs we've done.

 It's not Adam's sin, it's ours. We will be alone in front of the Throne of Judgement. We will have no one to blame. We can't say, "It's their fault."
It's your fault. And it's my fault.
The best thing we can do is acknowledge that, and begin working to fix it by prayer and much of your own effort. Faith without works is dead; what use is praying if you don't do your own part?
Work. Toil. Step away from your entertainment. Do what makes you uncomfortable. Live. Mature. And stop blaming others.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Undrawn Lines

 It's been a great long while since any posts have been made, but not for lack of inspiration or interest. On the contrary, the inspiration and desire to write new entries has been only increasing, it's the issue of time that restrains. 
 As it stands, my perceptions of things are going through a bit of a metamorphosis. Only time will tell if they're good changes or not.

 On one side, i'm being pulled towards something i can identify as being a narrow line to walk. I will never be justified by rules, and this is apparent because Christ justifies me by grace so that i can never boast. Nevertheless, i've determined to view all things as polarized;
"Those who are not with Me are against Me;"
"Here is how one can distinguish clearly between God’s children and those of the Adversary: everyone who does not continue doing what is right is not from God;"
"We know that we are from God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the Evil One;"
"...every spirit which does not acknowledge Yeshua is not from God — in fact, this is the spirit of the Anti-Messiah;"
"Turn my eyes away from worthless things;"
"All of us are like someone unclean, all our righteous deeds like menstrual rags;"
 It would seem as though the very Word of God tells me to polarize everything i may; to view things as holy or absolutely unrighteous. According to Levitical Law (which many seem to think we can ignore because Christ came), a man who has been touched by the menstrual flow of a woman is made unclean by it--all our righteous deeds are equivalent to the rags by which this blood is absorbed; anything it touches is to be considered unclean. Of course, my attempts at holiness are just the same, but Christ in me is righteousness. Only through Him can anything i do be made clean.

 If the best effort towards righteousness that the world can offer is something that, by contact, makes me unclean, how do i resolve my life to this? God draws pretty sharp lines here, and i'm in conflict as to how to proceed with this. Do i go about in fear of everything so that i don't be made unclean? Of course not! I'm not given a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of self-discipline!
 Nevertheless, how do i approach the world? With power and love and self-control. Does this mean all things are permissible? Maybe so, since the whole earth is the Lord's, as well as everything in it. But not all things are helpful or edifying. So again, this same question returns; how do i resolve my life to this?
 If God has drawn such sharp lines, why can't i so easily see them? He knows the false Christians, i don't. He detests the facetious in faith, yet if something proclaims Christ i flock to it. Is it a lack of discernment?

 This is an introspective post. A great deal of turmoil is raging inside of me, and i know that each line i draw just pushes me towards legalism, which i know separates me from God and perverts the Law. But having fewer lines lends my eyes to the side of worthless things.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Problem of Complacency

Pilate asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?" And he answered him, "The words are yours." Pilate said to the head cohanim (priests) and the crowds, "I find no ground for a charge against this man." Luke 23:3-4
 In this moment, Pilate questions Jesus by asking if He is the King of the Jews. Jesus says neither yes or no, but instead says, depending on translation, "The words are yours," or, "You have said so."
 The question Pilate asked Jesus was now turning back to him, just as when Peter was telling Him who the people said Jesus was; the real question was, "Who do you say that I am?" Jesus answers Pilate by stating something rather unexpected, "You have said so." Jesus, i believe, is saying that Pilate had at some point acknowledged Jesus as the Christ.

 So how does Pilate react? He turns from Jesus and tells the Jews that he finds no guilt in Jesus. Jesus has been charged with claiming to be the Messiah, and so Pilate asks him a simple question--and he finds no guilt in Him. Jesus didn't deny the charges. It was common knowledge that He was going around preaching the Gospel, healing the sick, raising the dead, making broken people whole. If He called Himself the Christ or the King of the Jews, He was in stark opposition to Caesar, yet He did make the claim.
 Pilate found Him innocent because He was not subverting the government. Speaking truth gives no guilt. So he turns to the crowds, "I find no ground for a charge against this Man." In other words, He claims to be the King, which puts Him at odds with the Emperor, but He is not wrong in Pilate's eyes.

 When the crowd demanded that Pilate carry on his tradition of releasing one prisoner during a festival, he succumbed; he looked for a murderous rebel. He picked someone the crowds would've hated worse. He picked someone who would safeguard Jesus' release.
 Nevertheless, the Jews were stirred into a commotion and asking for Barabbas.
Pilate appealed to them again, because he wanted to release Yeshua. But they yelled, “Put him to death on the stake! Put him to death on the stake!” A third time he asked them, “But what has this man done wrong? I haven’t found any reason to put him to death. So I’m going to have him flogged and set free.” But they went on yelling insistently, demanding that he be executed on the stake; and their shouting prevailed.
 "Why?" he asks. What crime did Jesus commit? Pilate still saw no guilt in the Accused. He didn't see Him as having done a thing wrong, not even in His claiming to be the Christ ("Everyone who claims to be a king is opposing the Emperor!" - John 19:12; in saying he found no guilt in Jesus, he was claiming that Jesus was not wrong in opposing Caesar).
 Even as they demanded Christ's death, Pilate still asked their reason, but according to Matthew's account, they only got louder in demanding His death, to the point that a riot was starting. So in order to keep the peace, he gives in and allows Jesus to be crucified.
When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water, washed his hands in front of the crowd, and said, “My hands are clean of this man’s blood; it’s your responsibility.” (Matthew 27:24)
 He washed his hands because he didn't want the death of the Messiah on his head. Let someone else take the blame. And the Jews agreed to shoulder the responsibility. It would appear as though Pilate got with compliance Scot-free.

 It may seem i'm defending Pilate in all of this, but such is not the case. This particular perspective creates something perhaps worse than seeing him as an accuser.
 He washed his hands. He didn't want the burden. He didn't want the blame. He didn't want the guilt. He wasn't willing to risk his reputation for the man he himself had admitted to believing in. He wasn't willing to change for the sake of the Lord.
 He embodied the modern Church's stance; "I won't let acknowledging Him change my life; won't let it make me uncomfortable or hated."

 What's worse: to not believe, or to believe and not act? Surely the man who can see evil and does nothing about it is far greater an accomplice than the man ignorant of it. If Pilate had not known, that would've been one thing. But to believe and yet still allow it falls on an entirely different order of complacency.

 If we truly believe Jesus to be the Messiah, we better be ready to defend that belief. We must be ready to lay down our reputation, find enmity in our friends, become an enemy of the government, and to lose everything we know and care about for His sake. Because if we don't, we will appease the crowd, wash our hands, and say, "Don't let this affect me."
 In doing so, we are as guilty (nay, more guilty!) as those who don't believe.
 The only way to have clean hands is to have them bathed in Christ's redemptive blood.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Marriage and Definitions

 I've been asked more than once in recent months what my opinion on homosexual marriage is. And my answer isn't the Biblically-based one most people expect.

 Using a Biblical reasoning to make a case about something has little effect when speaking with someone who A) doesn't base their life around Biblical moral or principles, or B) doesn't believe in the Bible.
 That's why, in debates about abortion, we use scientific data showing that the heartbeat is steady before the first missed cycle, brain and nerve development in the first few weeks, and pain reception likewise.

 Quoting Scripture about how God knows us before He forms us, how He's loved us since the foundation of the world, how He's thought about us and planned us; these things have no weight to an atheist. After all, the very cross of Christ is foolishness to those who are perishing--why should they heed any other God-breathed truth as anything but a joke?
 It's a fairytale to them. Fables to be told to children alongside stories of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy . . . Besides, they were most likely taught about Christ by the same people who taught them about these myths; why should they believe in the Bible?

 So if i want to make a valid case to someone who doesn't believe that my sourcebook (the Bible) has any use today, it only stands to reason that i must use their "truths."

 Aluminum is a light, softer type of metal. Copper is also a malleable element. Combine the two, and you have brass. Something interesting about brass is that it's a very sturdy alloy that is hard, and it doesn't bend easily. It is the concoction of mixing two "soft" metals together to create something new, different, and useful.
 Mix aluminum and aluminum, and you have not formed an alloy, you have not fused two elements, and you end up with nothing but more aluminum. It does nothing unique, nothing marvelous, or spectacular. It has not made a "better" composition.

 This goes for most, if not all alloys; the components work together to make an entirely new, entirely better creation than either was on its own.

 The reason for mentioning metals and alloys is that, when mixing different elements together, it is called, "marriage." When mixing multiple amounts of the same elements together, it does not, by definition, fit the term.

 What's more is when two elements are combined, we'll go with copper and tin for brass again, there is no longer copper or tin. There is simply brass.
 The two still exist, but not separately, within the compound (within the marriage). They can be identified as copper and tin within it, but the marriage has eliminated the independent identity of both. The mixture is stronger than either was before. And it creates a new version of both with a more useful result than copper or tin could have managed alone.

 The prefix, "hetero-" comes from the Greek for, "different."
 The prefix, "homo-" comes from the Greek for, "the same."

 Marriage is wholly reserved for the fusing of two unique and different elements.
 Or else it simply isn't marriage.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Fear of The Lord

 It's said several times through the Bible, notably in Proverbs but also in Psalms, that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The Hebrew word used tin these instances, יִרְאַ֬ת, means fear, awe, or dread. Many of us should set aside the notion that the "fear of the Lord" is simply reverence or respect.

 If a child does something their father has instructed them not to do and the father finds out, there's a myriad of reactions from the child, but some of the more common are confession or denial; either of these relates to the punishment.
 Confession, like pleading guilty in court to minimize your sentence, is used when the child wants to make right and face less discipline. Denial happens when the child wants to get out of the repercussions of their actions, even if it means piling on more disciplinary action when the truth does comes out. Both of these stem from fear--two different versions of fear, but fear nonetheless.
 On the one hand, there is wise defense; on the other, foolish "shrinking away." The fear of a judge's sentence may lean a defendant to either of these, and only the one has wisdom in it; confession leading to repentance.

 The fear of the Lord, when we dig into it, is not running away, but confrontation of one's own wrongdoings, confession and repentance of sin. This isn't simply respect, though.
"...fear him who can destroy both soul and body in Gei-Hinnom (Hell)." Matthew 10:28
 Revere Him who can destroy the soul? No. Reverence is an aspect of fear, but only a fragment of it. We are to revere God above all else, but this is not the intended context at this particular time. In this verse, Jesus is saying to be afraid of God for He can kill the mortal, temporary body, but He alone can also destroy the eternal soul in the fires of Hell. For another verse to put this into context . . .
"It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God!" Hebrews 10:31
"We are not the kind who shrink back and are destroyed; on the contrary, we keep trusting and thus preserve our lives!" ibid. vs. 39
 We are to come before Him with trembling and fear, for, as it says, it is terrifying to fall into the hands of the living God. Terrifying. Not respectful, not reverent, not any of those things. Terrifying.
 We come shaking in fear. But nevertheless, we approach. We approach Him because we can. Despite the knowledge that He may throw us into Hell for the sins we've committed, we are to step forward.
 And with the boldness we have to approach Him (how presumptuous of us!), we dare not shrink back nor hide our sin. We tear our clothes, lay ourselves spiritually naked before Him and declare, "Have mercy on me, a sinner!"

 This is another way of seeing the beginning of wisdom: approach God with terror in your heart--but approach nonetheless!
 To recoil is foolishness.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Go To The Ant!

 Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest. (Proverbs 6:6-8)
 Planning ahead, especially in finances, has never been a strongpoint for me (sometimes a verse just gets personal, you know?), and only recently has any major attempt to change that been made. And while this is often seen as a message for financial responsibility (and sometimes a call for an end of procrastination), there is another, more subtle application we can get from this passage.

 To put this softly, i've been around too many churchgoers outside of church-related functions to be anything but a cynic, and only the fewest (a remnant, if you will) haven't proven the resulting assumptions correct.
 To be slightly more blunt, a lot of people going to Hell will arrive there on a pew. And it's such a tragic thing, it should bring tears to our eyes. In fact, God showed Ezekiel that His judgement would fall on the heads of those who didn't mourn; of the men, women, children, regardless of age, He tells the executioners to "Slaughter them all!" and to "Defile the house! Fill the courtyards with corpses! Get going!" What's more, there's a startling command given; "Begin at my sanctuary."

 The first to receive judgement, it is saying, are those who believe in God, who claim to follow His Law, and yet pass by the crippled man on the side of the road. Those who "love God," but not their fellow man.
And don't get me wrong, "Love always trusts, always hopes, always--" I know. And there is little defense to be made for cynicism, excepting perhaps the fact that we're commanded strictly to avoid those who "retain the outer form of religion but deny its power."
 See, there are those we're to avoid, not just blindly embrace. Love is blind, but it's certainly not stupid. Keeps no record of wrong, but isn't naive. It hopes, but hope is usually encompassed by doubt--or else it would simply be expectation.

 And where this ties up; just because we have witnessed sin and immorality by churchgoers outside of church, if we watch them raise their hands on Sunday and then hear them start cussing or talking about sleeping around with people by Monday, that doesn't mean it has to change us. This is simply those who "retain the outer form of religion but deny its power." They deserve your pity, your groaning, your weeping, your compassion and, if they will hear you, Biblical correction. After all, judgement will come first to those in the sanctuary.
 But go to the ant! It has no leader, no overseer, no ruler; it operates not based on the actions of those around it, but by its own purpose, its own mind, its own work. If you have been wounded because some people look Christian on Sunday but do it all for show, that's between them and God; it's up to each of us to do what is necessary to maintain confidence before Him, which is behaving as His children should.
 Go to the ant. Do not be led astray. Do not look to the left or to the right. Do not look at your "Paul" (your spiritual leader) unless he is of more semblance to Christ than yourself. And should your "Paul" ever stop following Christ, stop imitating Paul, stop following Paul. Look to Christ.
 Imitate Christ so that you may be "Paul" to someone else.