A Certain Destination
Each day life is busy with lists of things to do and places to go. Plans are made for where and what must be done. However a lasting end will come for every one of which there is no further travel. Some will be ready but most will not. This final stop will be permanent. Will you want to be there for a second, nevertheless eternity?
To ignore or think little of an afterlife remains the behavior of many. It is easy to fill the day with immediate physical needs. What should we have for dinner? When is the dentist appointment? Do I need to deposit money into the bank? Many will prepare for retirement and plan where to relocate for the later years of life. Much thought and organization goes into that future change. But to consider the journey’s end of the soul to Heaven or Hell is usually disregarded.
People identify with what they can see, hear and touch. To believe in an abode the Bible teaches can be seen on equal footing as fairy tales. Especially when changes must be made in life to reap the good reward (Luke 13:3) most will turn a deaf ear. Heaven (or Paradise) can be accepted easier since all would like to have a happy ending. But to consider Hell (or Torment) remains too terrible to comprehend therefore concluding it all nonsense.
The most important book given to mankind will judge everyone. Sixty six books in one larger compilation will all answer to regardless of belief. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened…And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books Revelation 20:12.
Jesus warns us in Luke 12 to fear Him who can cast into Hell. Later in the same chapter he teaches of the rich fool who worked for material wealth but his soul was not ready when his final day came. Our Lord tells us to be prepared for we do not know when He will come (Matthew 24:36). But just as certain as going about daily routines of grocery shopping, shuttling kids to school or withdrawing cash at the ATM, a time will come when each will be sent to a real place. Ignoring the truth will not alter the ending. Will you be ready?
What the Ancients Knew
Aristotle lived from about 384 to 322 BC. He was a Greek Philosopher and is considered one of the foundations of both western philosophy and civilization taking his place alongside Socrates and Plato. He is known for his logical observations of reality. It was not enough to say that “something just is.” His desire was to measure and find explanations of how it is. When he was 17 he became a student in the school of Plato in Athens. He later become a teacher at the academy and remained there for about twenty years. After the death of Plato he moved back to Macedonia where he had grown up and where his father had been physician to the royal family. Without a doubt his greatest work was done here. Aristotle was commissioned by King Philip II to tutor his young son. That young son was Alexander the Great. He would conquer eastward with extraordinary speed to rip through the Persian Empire and built his own from Macedonia in the west as far as India in the east. Aristotle (perhaps unknowingly) prepared Alexander the Great to fulfill prophecies from the book of Daniel. Daniel wrote these prophecies about Alexander around two hundred years beforehand. Thus Aristotle, the teacher of Alexander the Great, was no minor figure in history. In his book The Midwife’s Vade-Mecum (which is a guidebook for midwives) he writes in chapter one:
Marriage is honorable to all, being ordained by Heaven in Paradise; and without which no man or woman can be in a capacity, honestly, to yield obedience to the first law of creation, “increase and multiply.”
These words sound surprising coming from an ancient, Greek philosopher. He does not mention the gods of the Greek pantheon. He writes of Heaven not Mount Olympus. This sounds nothing like what was prominent in Greek culture. How does he come to his conclusion on marriage? How does he know anything about what he calls “the first law of creation?” Written words will tell you something about the person who wrote them. They will disclose the mind of the author and what they know. There are things Aristotle obviously understood which he reveals in his writings. In this this book for midwives, he quotes Psalm 139:14 (giving book, and chapter) and also makes reference to Moses, creation and quotes Genesis 2:7. Aristotle obviously knew the Old Testament and had enough of a command to use facts from it to show universal principles. The books of the Old Testament were not read exclusively by Jews. The writings of the Old Testament must have been generally known in ancient Greece (and in many other places). Aristotle was a highly educated man but he could not have been the only Greek who was familiar with the prophets. He assumed his readers would be familiar with and respect the Old Testament. If they knew nothing of scripture then his arguments would fall on deaf ears. His readers had to have some awareness with scriptures for Aristotle to use them so many times. I doubt he expected his audience to be entirely Jewish. His words reflect his knowledge of medicine but also a command of scripture as a means for understanding medicine and the human condition. These are his words in chapter 4:
Man’s soul is of so divine a nature and excellency that man himself cannot comprehend it, being the infused breath of the Almighty, of an immortal nature, and not to be comprehended but by Him that gave it. For Moses, relating the history of man, tells us that “God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and he became a living soul.”
These are not the words of someone in the dark. He understood who God was. He understood that Jewish prophets held the facts on reality. What Aristotle knew would have been transfered to his student Alexander the Great who helped set the stage for the events of the first century.
Isaiah 55:11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
When Tragedy Must Be Glamorized
On August 11, 2014 Robin William killed himself and there is something that needs to be said. A man, who lived at the very center of pop culture and was one of its many idols for about forty years, took his own life. Thus was the shocking end of a man who had everything the world tells us we should desire and envy: overwhelming popularity, unbelievable wealth, and undeniable influence. He could quickly fill a stadium with admiring fans wherever he appeared. His talents were rare and so was his life. Few people have experienced such a level of consistent public adulation. As a comedian his mass appeal had longevity, but he was far more than a comic. He was a respected actor and a highly prized box office heavyweight. This brought him many well-paying opportunities and placed him in highly visible positions to sway popular culture, which he did. By the world’s formula of happiness this was it. It cannot possibly get better. What else is there? Robin Williams was among the jet set and corps d’elite of celebrities. These are the people to watch, admire and long for. Their opinions sink deeper into the consciousness of culture. Above any other group this one must possess absolute happiness and purpose of life, and yet Robin Williams’ life ends with suicide. The world had to stop and take notice. What went wrong?
The speculations rolled in and then the various conclusions but nothing seemed to fit. Is it possible the promises of the world failed? What power would the world hold on people if it honestly gave the facts about real, objective happiness? The fact is it is incapable of handing it to you. What power would Satan hold if he were truthful about the path of sin leading to death? Very little. So this tragedy must be polished over. The explanations for Williams’ death attempted to justify what he did or at least place it at a better angle. He was ill. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. He was a man of deep empathy and feelings. Millions of people have gone through worse and never considered suicide. This glosses over the fact that a man who should be the happiest among us (by the world’s standard) was a walking time bomb waiting to self-destruct. That same adored and talented man can appoint himself executioner seeking his own life. However this story is told or whatever new investigations may bring the lesson remains: a man who has money, fame and everything the world offers cannot avoid death.
The world simply does not want to believe that its sureties for happiness may not be sure after all. Perhaps there is much more to life and the human soul than gaining the adoration of people. Material things are remarkably shallow and they offer no substance for helping common but serious problems. Obviously there is more to Robin Williams than comedian and actor. Deep inside was a spirit needing something far more than fame, adoration and money. He had suffered many years with depression. Why? What could possibly have been missing? If we do not need God (as we are taught) then did he not have it all? If God is not the answer then certainly money, satisfaction in oneself or expensive toys should be able to solve all problems. The fact is Robin Williams had deep seated issues neither he nor worldly things could patch. He was an emotional wreck limping by with jokes and self-medication. Problems of this magnitude will build over time. If they are left unresolved they will lead to tragedy. His problems became the expanding elephant in the room that will not be laughed away, shrugged off nor ignored into nonexistence. The effects of shame and uncontrolled moral weakness (i.e. slave to sin) mixed with persistent godlessness produces an increasingly dark and fatalistic outlook. Here is where hope cannot be seen. This is the product from a pattern of living which sets one up for the next catastrophic choice leading to final collapse. This is where Satan wants us: a place where we are so overloaded with failures and surrounded with lies that we can only think of one thing, “There is no way out.” When you make a career of blasphemy, as he did, then all hope will leave with God. All that is left is a frail soul standing before the bleak, the barren, and the flaws of a man crushing him under. This is where sin and Satan lead. The God Williams ridiculed holds the only solution. The life he mocked never leaves you cold and desolate. But God can take anyone from sin’s final choice to raise them to the full view of hope, happiness and purpose. God’s words are that powerful.
2 Corinthians 7:10 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.
Doomed from the Start
Captain Sir John Franklin started on his final expedition in 1845. His goal was to explore the last part of the Northwest Passage in the northern Canadian and Alaskan waters. This had been a dream for many years. The hope was that a safe and clear route might be found where a ship could sail from the northern Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean by way of skirting above North America. If possible this would significantly cut travel time going from the north Atlantic to the Pacific. The only usable path at that point was to travel around the southern tip of South America. One would take the Hudson Strait in northern Canada instead of the Straits of Magellan of southern Argentina and Chile. A northern path would solve many problems. It had been tried before but no one had discovered a route. The journey carried an enormous risk since it required sailing into the Arctic Circle. Thus it could only be attempted in summer but even then Arctic weather can be unpredictable.
Franklin was an experienced explorer having been in the arctic with three previous expeditions. He and 134 men set sail from England in two ships (HMS Erebus and HMS Terror) on May 19, 1845. The ships were equipped for a three year expedition, but no one returned. As it seemed the ships just left and never came back. No one could know their fate. At this point the information of what happened to these men comes from a few witnesses and objects found in the intervening years. With request from the families and the public, there was a rescue mission sent out to find Franklin and his men. In the investigation witnesses were found. The two ships were seen by a whaling vessel on July 26, 1845 near Baffin Island in northern Canada. That was two months into the journey. An Inuit hunter said he saw the ships locked in ice off King William Island which is further to the west. He also may have seen one of the ships disappear under the ice. Through many years of investigations graves were found of three of the crewmen. There were also other matters which could not be easily explained except to come to the obvious conclusion that the journey ended in death.
The Franklin expedition was considered the best prepared and equipped arctic expedition to that point. Captain Franklin was a veteran artic explorer and an experienced leader. It would have been hard to get better men or better ships for this mission. So what happened? Something aboard those ships proved to be a fatal flaw. If the trip consisted of quick and easy sailing then the men may have all survived. But if there were any problems (any serious delay) then complications would begin and men would start to die while the living became more and more helpless. This was a polar exploration; nature would bring the problems. The mistake was onboard before the ships left home. It was an unintended, built-in disaster which would make this trip impossible to survive. It was lead. There was lead solder in the tin cans of food. There was lead in the water supply.
Lead poisoning in arctic conditions is death. The whole crew was subjected to it. The two ships were trapped in ice off the shore of King William Island. The summer was not warm enough to thaw the ice. The ships could not move and there they remained locked. In time the lead took its toll. From the evidence there was desperation and madness with a complete breakdown in discipline as men separated. Some abandoned the ship and divided into groups heading in different directions. This expedition might have turned out differently except for the fatal flaw stored deep in the ships which almost guaranteed no man would return.
Life is a dangerous journey. Every one of us carries a weakness deep inside. In time that weakness manifests itself to become a fatal flaw. If we were cast into this life without help then none of us could make it to heaven. No one could be saved. We would be the inevitable and unavoidable cause for our own condemnation. We may be strong at certain points but eventually the weaknesses surface and so will trouble. If this life were adversary-free with smooth and clear sailing then we might have a chance by our own wits (maybe). But this is life and it has been filled with traps and bait and we fall into one of the two categories of either the naive or the willing. But all possible weaknesses are known to God and He has offered the only help. All sin is forgiven and His words will strengthen us and prepare us for every situation.
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
“What If?” and “What Is?”
“What if?” asks how something might be.
“What is?” asks for the present state of the thing.
“What if?” is potential.
“What is?” is fact.
“What if?” sets the goal.
“What is?” tells where we are on that path to the goal.
“What if?” imagines a future.
“What is?” sees the present.
“What if?” wants to be reality.
“What is?” shows reality.
“What if?” reflects our desires.
“What is?” reacts to our desires.
“What if?” offers hope.
“What is?” reflects us.
“What if?” is ideal.
“What is?” may be less than ideal.
“What if?” may never be obtained without effort.
“What is?” describes the effort.
“What if?” is will.
“What is?” is the result of our will.
“What if?” wants because “what is?” lacks.
“What if?” is never done without “what is?”
Regardless of “what if?” there is a final result by the actions of “what is?” “What is?” will describe an eternal conclusion. Depending on that conclusion there may never be another “what if?”
Romans 7:15-20 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
Theology, Cartoons and Simple Truth
Linus and Lucy are staring out a window. Outside is a heavy downpour. Lucy asks the question, “Boy, look at it rain… what if it floods the whole world?”
Linus answers, “It will never do that… In the ninth chapter of Genesis God promised Noah that would never happen again, and the sign of the promise is the rainbow.”
“You’ve taken a great load off my mind…” Lucy responds looking relived.
In the final frame Linus sums it up, “Sound theology has a way of doing that!”
Charles Schulz had a knack for giving profound statements to his characters in Peanuts. Though this particular cartoon is not as funny as it is perceptive it is amusing that a small boy (Linus) says it the way he does. That is why I always liked Linus. Such a statement is a very simple truth and it goes a long way. There is security in sound theology. The important word here is sound. Sound theology has only one source: God alone. If you are going to study God you are going to have to listen to what He says about Himself. There is no better comfort than a word from God. One can rest on His assurances because they will stand. He is in control and He is good.
Matthew 7:24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock.
When man goes to his own devising he will complicate his life and those around him. For one reason or another man feels free to tamper with the simple truths. For one reason or another people believe men rather than God. For one reason or another people ignore Scripture and worry themselves to death rather than pick up a Bible and read the promises of God. There is found truth, comfort, peace of mind and sound theology. The simple statements are profound and eternal.
Romans 15:4 For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
Hebrews 13: Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
John 14:18 “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”
Happiness is knowing God is in control.
Guilt as Motivator Part 1
Forgetting as Escape
People seldom do anything without some sort of motive. For every action, good or evil, there is a reason why it was done. The rationale may seem senseless, appear crazy or remain a mystery to all but it is still there. Fear, love, pride, hunger, need, social pressure, compassion, desperation, greed, ambition, and lust are just a few powerful motivators. Any of these can lead a person in one direction or another. Good and evil describe actions done by people following some inducement. Eve was motivated by, among other things, the desire to be wise. Satan presented her with that notion. Though it was a lie she now believed she could be wise as God. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:6). Christ, on the other hand, was motivated by love and he gave Himself to be the sacrifice for all sin including the first sin committed by mankind. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). In these two examples are two different outcomes because there were two different motivations leading in their own direction. One ran straight to sin and the other to the greatest act of good paying the debt of sin. I think it can safely be said that selfish ambitions will never lead us to do what is right, but love toward God and man always will. These motivators can carry you in one general direction. But there are, however, certain states or emotions which can take us to a fork in the road, or as Joel 3:14 calls it: the valley of decision. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. It is at this point the resulting action may pass either way – one path toward God the other turns away. We want to look at the emotions of guilt as a pivotal point which may influence a person into one of these two directions.
The feeling of guilt is a powerful motivator. It is a forceful feeling generated from a common occurrence. A mistake is made. A sin is committed. The sense of shame rises from below ascending from a mechanism which is part of your being – the conscience. With the strain of guilt comes the incentive to be rid of the mounting weight. Welcome to the valley of decision. How do you alleviate the constant presence of shame? There are really two choices. The first choice under discussion comes with different techniques. While the second, the right decision, has only one. In the next few articles we will look at the options.
The first choice does have its advantages. It allows you to alleviate the feelings of guilt while avoiding the responsibility of it. You do not have to admit to anything. This path will lead away from God and offers several approaches. Let us start with the method of forgetting. Whatever caused the feeling of guilt must be put behind you and forgotten. You live as though it did not happen. Though that seems simple enough it is not without a weakness inherent in the plan. The flaw is that some things may not be put away so easily. Thus help may be offered by self-medicating through alcohol, illegal or prescription drugs. This will, of course, lead to greater trouble than you had while feeling guilty. There are other complications: unresolved problems (sins) have a tendency to haunt you for the rest of your life and may make their way into affecting your personality and health. Preoccupation may disappear for a while but the memories of sins and their consequences have an inconvenient way of returning out of nowhere after years of quiet. Anxiety always destroys happiness. This will have an impact on the well-being and emotional state of anyone. There is no real peace on a good day and bad days are made worse. The elephant will not leave the room and it can be hard to ignore him.
In Acts 5:28 the Sanhedrin warned the apostles, saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!” The Sanhedrin wished for everyone (including themselves) to forget what happened with Jesus of Nazareth. They did not want to be reminded. If justice was done they would not care what was said. It would not bother them at all. But they were afraid of something lurking inside and it was guilt.
Guilt as Motivator Part 2
Redefine as Fine
The feelings of guilt create strong incentive toward action. When faced with shame people will compare the choices for remedy because guilt demands to be silenced. Here is the critical question: what is the right solution? There is only one correct way to resolve guilt but there are many options offered by the wrong path. Satan always presents a wide gate and a broad way (Matthew 7:13) where all can comfortably pick a preferred mode of sin. A decision must be made. It is difficult to effectively forget sins especially when the consequences are ever present. In his book entitled The Genealogy of Morals Friedrich Nietzsche spoke of the problem of memory. He wondered why we even care enough to keep our past deeds (sins) in mind or why there is anything like shame. Why does it bother us? Even he, as an atheist and high-handed sinner, had a problem with his conscience. He tried his best to explain it away after discovering he could not suppress it. Since forgetting does not work well it is time to look at another option.
What about customized justification? What if we could redefine the situation and excuse the problem so as to ease the conscience? If we rethink the circumstances then we may be able to convince ourselves that nothing is wrong, nothing bad happened and guilty feelings can disappear. Choose this and you are not alone. This is commonly used by countless many. Blame can be placed on something or someone else or there is no blame at all. Shame is simply an illusion and a false feeling created by Christianity or society. Again, in his book, Nietzsche accused Israel of manufacturing morality to subjugate other peoples. From morality comes a guilty conscience. Of course he never explains how one could possibly introduce the concept of guilt and make it stick emotionally to creatures that have no capacity for it. If Israel accomplished such a thing then they were bizarrely successful in manipulating nations they never knew. They certainly did a marvelous job on Nietzsche because he wrote of attempts at escaping his own conscience – which is what the whole book endeavors. It is apparent he is not writing for our benefit as he is for his own. According to him man invented the bad conscience. All of this is done to remove his awareness shame.
The idea of redefining sin will lead to a lifelong struggle of doubts followed by a constantly developing story line which carries the cost of self-deception. It is a flimsy option that will never deliver contentment so the circumstances, motive and the meaning of the sin must be perpetually modified. We now turn to the Manson Family and the murders of 1969. Charles Manson had an appeal to a certain people. He was very a charismatic man who made friends into fanatical worshippers obsessed and loyal to him. He was the single controlling figure of a devoted cult following. It became his criminal organization justified in its actions by his teaching of an imminent apocalyptic war he called “Helter Skelter.” He taught that he and his following were destined to bring about the war and then lead in the aftermath. In a supposed attempt to start the war he ordered some of his followers into committing several murders around Los Angeles in 1969. They killed for him and then he and they were eventually incarcerated. He has remained in prison ever since. In the intervening decades he has been interviewed a few times. In the past few years he has begun to champion environmental causes. For some reason this man who has seen very little of the outside world is now interested in protecting it. Suddenly he is offering the reason behind the killings he denied in court: It was an effort to save the planet. Here is the ever changing story and some are falling for it. It seems odd to me that a man like Manson would concern himself with popular perception. After a lifetime in prison it is rather obvious what people think of him. This has more to do with convincing himself than us. It is of note that ideas concerning good and evil are almost identical between Nietzsche and Charles Mason.
In 1 Samuel 15 King Saul is returning from his battle against Amalek. Samuel finds Saul and tells him he has disregarded the commands of God. Saul was to destroy everything but they had taken the best of the sheep and cattle and spared King Agag. Saul begins to justify his actions. He starts by saying he has performed the commands of the Lord (1 Samuel 15:13, 20). Then he explains they saved the cattle for a sacrifice to God (1 Samuel 15:15). At last he confessed he “feared the people and obeyed their voice (1 Samuel 15:24).” Saul could, on occasion, admit wrong.
Personalities and Patience
During Jesus’ ministry on earth He had to deal with various persons and their personalities. Looking at just the apostles there are twelve independent varieties of temperaments and idiosyncrasies. Though I do not think it possible their personalities can be documented entirely (some apostles are only known by name with no action outside of a group) I do know that each man would have been different. We are shown examples of Jesus patiently handling situations brought on by someone. Each situation was unique because each man carried his own strength and weakness. Each had his likes, dislikes, offensiveness and sensitivities. Each had his own unique way about him which may have seemed endearing to his mother but would have tested the patience of someone else. Each potentially could be an irritant to any other. With any task each man would have his own way of looking at the task, his own solution for it, and his own idea of when it should be done. Even brothers, such as Peter and Andrew, who had a similar background, were not alike in personality. Brothers and other relationships play a part in situations.
Here is a quick list of personalities requiring patience. James and John (Luke 9:54) were quick to ask to command fire from heaven to destroy the inhospitable residents of a Samaritan village. John stopped a man who was casting out demons simply because he, John, did not know who the man was (Mark 9:38). In Matthew 20:21 James’ and John’s mother requested that her sons might sit on either side of Christ in His kingdom. When the rest of the apostles heard this they were greatly displeased with James and John. Peter was an outspoken man who could articulate a correct answer one minute and then open his mouth a second time to fall flat. Jesus commended him with the words, “Blessed are you Simon Bar-Jonah,” in Matthew 16:17 and then rebuked him by saying, “Get behind me Satan,” in verse 23. Peter could go from one extreme to the other in six verses. The apostles forsook Christ and fled during His arrest in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:56).
In each instance Jesus showed complete control, patience and wisdom to say and do the absolute best thing. There were times He was gentle because that was required. James and John could not possibly call fire from heaven at will. That was far beyond their limits. This posed no real threat, but exposed the apparent “quick-on-the-trigger” men they were at that point. There were times when Jesus was not gentle because the threat presented was greater and had to be corrected with emphasis. Peter was truly tempting Jesus when he suggested that Jesus could avoid the cross and all the suffering that involved. This was a real problem and Jesus could not spend every day of His ministry with a man who would continue proposing this temptation. He had to respond directly and harshly to stop that sort of talk.
It must be said that Jesus was very patient to the man who would betray Him. He knew what Judas Iscariot would do. Jesus knew Judas was a thief. In every place recording conversations or actions between the two, Jesus was extraordinarily forbearing. Even while being betrayed Jesus’ actions toward Judas (or anyone else) were beyond all reproach. From His arrest to His death on the cross Jesus was in control of Himself and dealt patiently with all. The thief to His right spent his last moments on earth mocking Jesus (Mark 15:32) until he changed his mind and asked for salvation (Luke 23:42). Forgiveness was given immediately. Jesus consistently handled people and their personalities with patience because patience was required. He expects the same from us as we come into contact with all.
Proverbs from the World
Soon we will be starting a study into the book of Proverbs. In general terms a proverb is a brief saying that gives advice or expresses some belief. The book of Proverbs has discussions of wisdom and folly leading into a collection of the wise sayings of Solomon. The book is inspired and is far more than statements of personal opinion. These sayings are points of truth from God. Here real wisdom is offered for living right. Consider Proverbs 26:28 A lying tongue hates those who are crushed by it, And a flattering mouth works ruin. This verse consists of seven Hebrew words. It exposes truth with brevity while comparing two subjects through parallelism. In this case lying and lucrative flattery are the same. Like all scripture it contains deep insight into its subject. There is nothing good in a lie. The action, the result, the intent and the disposition are all destructive. The action is deception, the result is ruin, the intent is selfish and the disposition is hatred.
In his book Beyond Good and Evil, Friedrich Nietzsche writes the following little maxim, “There is an innocence in lying which is the sign of good faith in a cause.” This is certainly a proverb of the world (Nietzsche would agree with that assessment). What does it mean? Someone who lies for a cause has done what was necessary for that cause. A lie must be judged by the faith one has in a cause. This assumes that one’s cause requires lying to show good faith. Thus according to Nietzsche it is noble to lie for what one believes in, and the very thing one believes in will require lying. There are many problems with this, first: anything can be claimed to be a cause. A liar can justify himself by inventing a good reason for any of his lies. Secondly: anyone who feels the need to lie for their faith needs to rethink their faith. Any cause that demands lies is not worth your time. That which has truth and fact needs no lie. It is solid and sound and will never ask anyone to lie about it. A faith devoid of truth cannot stand without help from those willing to lie for it. It is odd to think one could be justified in lying as long as there is a sincere motivation to lie. There is nothing sincere about it. There is nothing honest or innocent in lying.
Friedrich Nietzsche may not have known this, but he is not alone. the Quran agrees with him. This concept of justified lying is found in Surah 16:106. It seems that deception is also sanctioned by Mohammed. “Who disbelieves in Allah after his belief – save him who is forced thereto and whose heart is still content with Faith – but who finds ease in disbelief: On them is wrath from Allah. Theirs’ will be an awful doom” According to Mohamed you may say anything you like (including the denial of Islam) if you feel pressured to do so. If the threat is real or even imagined you may lie. If the situation requires a lie then you may lie. One is left to deduce that if lying is good in the defense and advancement of a cause then all other actions (murder, theft, drunkenness, etc,) could be justified as well under the same conditions. This supposed message from Allah in Surah 16 is at odds with the message given by Christ in the entire book of Revelation, “Be faithful until death.” But both Mohammed and Nietzsche allow for “necessary” dishonesty in protection of a problematic faith. An institution that prepares its followers to lie has deception at its core. For Nietzsche it is atheism. For Mohammed it is a religion of his own making designed for his own benefit – Islam. If a lying tongue hates those who are crushed by it then the one who teaches lying must have the same hatred but reaching further. This hatred is directed to the those who will hear the lie and also to the believers who are taught to lie. A simple proverb of the world leads us to this: deception as doctrine.
“You Still Lack One Thing”
In Luke 18 the rich young ruler asks Jesus the question “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” In His answer Jesus makes the statement “You still lack one thing.” If we could take the ruler’s place would Jesus say those same words to us? What one thing would it be in which we lack? Would we go away as well? Are we unwilling to make the necessary changes?
In each individual there is usually a primary fault one struggles with more than other human frailties. With the ruler wealth had a hold on his soul. The text teaches he was grieved to hear he would need to relinquish his goods for he was very rich. Though the ruler professed to have kept all the commandments from his youth, he was blind to the fact wealth was his god before Jehovah.
Looking inward, would we understand the one fault Jesus addresses to us? Romans 3:23 teaches “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” On a daily basis what sin are we struggling to overcome? Is it anger, pride, selfishness, being unforgiving or a lack of self-control of our words? Do we allow something to rule over us as the young ruler did? More importantly, would we ignore Jesus words and go away resigned to our eternal fate? Though the rulers’ ending is not given in the text, Jesus concludes “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” The one thing he lacked was the very thing he refused to give up for his own salvation. He would only go so far to please God but no further. He would rather have that one thing (wealth) for whatever years he had left on the earth than to choose eternal life. The rich young ruler has now spent about 20 times more years away from his wealth than he ever had with it. And eternity has not begun yet.
What one thing do you lack? Will you choose to be obedient?
An Unexpected Conclusion
The funeral of Menachem Mendel Schneerson was an odd event. It was not odd that a 92 year old man died from a history of heart problems. He was the leader of an ultra-orthodox Jewish movement (or sect, or cult) called the Chabad-Lubavitch. They are Hasidic Jews and he was their Rebbe for forty-three years (note: a Rebbe is far greater than a mere rabbi). In the last years of his life he was considered by his followers to be the Messiah. How did his followers come to that conclusion? It could not have been from Moses or any other prophet. Schneerson was born in what is now the Ukraine. He was the son of a rabbi. He started nothing and fulfilled nothing. Thus the kingdom promised in Daniel was not started by Schneerson. He died for no one. He never stepped foot in Israel. His lineage is entirely unknowable thus it cannot be proven he is a decedent of David. He was born centuries after the Roman Empire and the temple. He fulfilled no prophesy. There are no signs associated with him. So, what criterion do his followers use to think he is the Messiah? 1) He was a good man. 2) He was a generous man. 3) He set up Jewish schools around the world. That is about it. This is not proof. Why would God have the prophets write so much describing the Messiah and the events surrounding His life on earth if it simply did not matter? The prophecies might be fulfilled or they might not. Who knows? It would seem odd that the prophecies given throughout the Old Testament match perfectly with Jesus of Nazareth, a man in the first century, but must be disregarded. Yet these prophesies have no relation to a man living in the 20th century but somehow Menachem Mendel Schneerson is the Messiah and Jesus of Nazareth is not. Is this really the way God works? If it is He has certainly made things hopelessly confusing.
Here begins the grand irony. The only prophetic fulfillment anticipated in Schneerson’s life as messiah was an expectation at his death. It was believed that when he died he would resurrect. The idea of a resurrected Messiah is found in the Old Testament but has been denied by Jews since the resurrection of Jesus. The very idea has been mocked and ridiculed but now accepted when applied to Schneerson. Jewish rejection of a resurrected Christ has been renowned for centuries but now suddenly confessed and anticipated by a significant Orthodox Jewish community. The question is this: why throw out every other prophesy which could identify the Messiah except the one which has been denied for two thousand years? I suppose it would be the last possible prophesy to hold onto and perhaps the most telling if Schneerson was to resurrect. It would certainly turn some heads. But this is not the end of the irony.
Schneerson’s followers expected him to resurrect after three days (Charles Eisenberg, The Book of Daniel – A Well Kept Secret, Page 115). There was a celebration at his death and memorial by some because they expected him to rise up. Scriptures like Psalm 16:27 teach that the Holy One of Jehovah would die, enter Hades and then return. But there are no Old Testament prophesies which speak of a three day period from death the Messiah to His resurrection. The only place where that information is found is in the New Testament beginning with a quote from Jesus of Nazareth in Matthew 12:39-40. He spoke of the sign of Jonah. Until that point in the Scripture there was no mention of the sign of Jonah. The followers of Schneerson could only have gotten that idea from the life of the real Christ. One would have to ask: what have they been reading? It is as though they are saying, “Our messiah can resurrect as well, and therefore just as good as yours.” I believe this holds insight into the mind of some modern day Jews which has not changed since John 12:42, Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue.
One article I found on the subject was written by a Jewish man who researched the Lubavitch messianic movement. In interviews he discovered factions inside the Lubavitch camp: some believing that Schneerson had to be the messiah, while others could not accept it. Some who went to look at prophesies in the Old Testament found that Schneerson was not the messiah, but Jesus could be.
Theology in a Waiting Room
Recently I was in a waiting room while my car was being repaired. I was reading, drinking coffee and, as usual, being easily amused when a man sat down next to me. A conversation ensued. I found that he was Catholic. He told me that every morning he liked to go to a certain restaurant in his home town, and at the restaurant there was always a group of men who met there for breakfast. These men were Baptists. He then explained how they all would get into religious discussions with friendly disagreements – he believing the Catholic Church was the first church and the other men believing the Baptist Church traced back to John the Baptist. The Baptist Church was formed by John the Baptist, thus they argued, the Baptist church was before Christ. I explained to him that the Baptist Church was established in the 1600’s in England as part of the settling of the Protestant Reformation. Prior to that there were the Anabaptists who were given that name by their critics. I explained that John the Baptist did not establish a church. And would any Baptist actually suggest they followed John the Baptist and not Christ? What other conclusion could there be? Then we discussed matters of Peter, the papacy, tradition, scripture, and the original church. Our conversation was called short when a man came over and handed keys to my newfound waiting room friend. His car was ready. He immediately told the attendant our topic of discussion of Baptists and Catholics and then said, “You know the Catholic Church is the oldest Church.” The attendant considered that information for a second and then responded, “It may be the first, but it’s not better.” Then both men went their way.
That was an interesting reaction, but it does display typical denominational thinking. It is as though two football teams were being described. Both played football but one was not as good as the other. But this is no casual concern, or sport. This is Christ’s church and it is serious. Did he actually consider what he just said: “It may be the first, but it’s not better?” What did he admit? First, he had no defense. He just took what he was told as fact without hesitation, without a moment of doubt. Evidently he was easily convinced that Roman Catholicism was the original church found the New Testament. Secondly, he stated it was not good since he believed there is a better form of Christianity. If Roman Catholicism is the church of the New Testament that Christ established then there can be nothing better. God’s works are perfect. It seems to me that if you were convinced it was the original church then you would conform to it and not be taken by anything else. If you believe Christianity can be improved then you believe Christ cannot design a church on the earth destined for heaven. Somehow Christ needs help and has left it into the hands of men to make all necessary improvements. It is as though Christ left only fragments or loose ideas of a church and men were left to fill in the gaps as needed. It does not matter how the gaps are closed or how the ideas are used as long as the end result is a church attributed to Christ. Is that Christianity?
Can the church take different forms? The New Testament speaks of one church, records the history of that church and warns against anything else. The church of the New Testament is described thoroughly and is well defined. It is complete with proper authority, foundation, doctrine, purpose, discipline and organization. There are no gaps. If we were left with little to go on and must form a church from bits of scattered information then 2 Timothy 3:16-17 would be a lie: All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
If the papacy, cardinals, archbishops and monastic orders do not seem right or Biblical it is because they are not. If they are not Biblical then they are not from Christ. If they are not from Christ then Roman Catholicism cannot be the first church (or legitimate at all). If, however, John the Baptist established a church and if Christ was baptized into that church then what church did Christ promise in Matthew 16:18? It could not be the Baptist church and it was not Roman Catholicism. It must be the one true church. The original is the only one Christ built.
A few weeks ago we completed reading the New Testament together as a congregation. We did this by meeting every Friday night and Saturday night until we read from Matthew to Revelation. In Deuteronomy 31:9-13 God commanded a certain time for Israel to read all the Law publicly, So Moses wrote this law and delivered it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel. And Moses commanded them, saying: “At the end of every seven years, at the appointed time in the year of release, at the Feast of Tabernacles, when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Gather the people together, men and women and little ones, and the stranger who is within your gates, that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the LORD your God and carefully observe all the words of this law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God as long as you live in the land which you cross the Jordan to possess.”
Israel was to hear all of the Law and be reminded of its details regularly. God appointed the time and place of reading as a necessity. Each succeeding generation would grow up hearing the Law of Moses in its entirety. The reading was vital to the health and order of the nation, but the setting was also important. It was read publicly and all were to be present. This was to be openly presented as the Law of God – the exclusive laws which governed all life in Israel. That placed a great emphasis and honor to it. It was from God and no one was above it. Any corrupt person would not want to hear or have the Law read aloud because there were specific commandments to all: kings, paupers, priests, prophets, parent and child. Not one person in Israel was left uncovered. Thus no person in Israel could be safely ignorant of the Law.
How utterly impossible it would be to have a public reading of the laws of the United States. The federal laws alone are too cumbersome, convoluted and contradictory. It is testimony of the failure of men. God’s laws to Israel (Genesis to Deuteronomy also referred to as the Pentateuch) can be held between your thumb and index finger. Our English version is about 190 pages. In the centuries from the appointing of Moses to the death of Jesus nothing was amended or abolished. It stood until fulfilled by Christ. Then a perfect law came into existence.
The public reading of the Law was to benefit Israel, but that does not mean they were faithful to it. Many years later God would describe Israel in a state of ignorance: My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children (Hosea 4:6). The New Testament is only about 50 pages larger than the Pentateuch. The principle is still valid. The reading of God’s word is vital but the public reading of it is also. The reading of the New Testament as a congregation is to recognize the importance of it all. Historically false teachers have forbidden the reading of it. A congregation can only benefit by its words read openly to all.
Guilt as Motivator part 3
Why Should We Feel Guilt?
The ability to regret is good. It is a necessity. If we can freely make moral decisions and, if we are responsible for those decisions, and if we are allowed repentance, then regret is good. We must have the capacity to sense any action done as right or wrong. All must possess an internal mechanism which will produce satisfaction at making a good choice and regret at any wrong. We are formed with a conscience for the very purpose of judging actions. Satisfaction from the conscience brings complete resolution. Nothing else is needed nor expected. A clear conscience is crucial to keeping a well-founded sense of self-worth. There is nothing lingering in the back of the mind which must be corrected. The approval of the conscience allows us to live without emotional baggage. Innocence is health.
Regret brings shame which takes over the mind. It lurks about in the depths of the human soul declaring serious personal failure. The purpose of regret is to steer us to contrition and back to all that is right. The feelings of guilt are deep and pervasive. They must be that way so we can identify wrong actions and bring about correction. The existence of the human conscience and of shame is evidence of a loving and merciful Creator. What if God created beings in a world of moral choices, and judged them by their choices? What if He gave them no internal system to help them choose right from wrong? He would then be completely cruel or shortsighted. Conversely: a universe without God springing from nothingness would exist without purpose or value. It would present no moral choices. The concept would not exist. And yet, here we are hit by them daily. The decisions of right or wrong constantly demand our attention. Absolutes existed before man. Good and evil existed before man. Moral decisions existed before man. That is reality (as it has always been from eternity) and we are created to live and function within it. God made us completely operative with all integral parts, thus we are designed with every capacity to live in this world. From those various abilities we can sense the material (see, hear, smell, taste, touch) as well as sense the moral (right and wrong).
To feel shame is good. That is an indicator that one’s conscience is working. To be shameless, however is an extremely bad condition. Though each of us has been given our own conscience anyone can kill it. 1 Timothy 4:2 describes this, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron. The feelings of guilt are natural and designed to bring us back to right. We are spiritual beings and are well suited for following God in all things.
Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter (2 Corinthians 7:9-11).
The Certainty of Failure with the Promise of Help
In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus offers a promise that is a tall order to fill. “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” In that statement He says we would naturally be under a burden that He certainly did not give us. It came from somewhere else. He promises to give us rest which means we would be under a great labor from something else. When he offers His yoke He is implying we would already be yoked by someone else. This is the condition He knows we will be in. Without Him that will be our state. He knows people will find themselves in a life of wreckage. We will bring it upon ourselves and harm others in the process. His words are certain we will fail and will need Him.
The world wants to be free from God. Worldliness desires a paradise of its own making without Him. Man believes this to be a possibility the moment he stops following God. All attempts by man to create utopia fail on a tragic and massive scale every time. The freedom that man desires is freedom from God. That brings the labor and the burden of sin with its oppression and consequences. There is no need to be surprised when this happens. That is precisely what Christ described in Matthew eleven. He has always known we are incapable of directing our own steps (Jeremiah 10:23). In a world left to ourselves we are all walking disasters.
This is certainly not the image the world would portray. The promises of the world are deceptive or shallow at best. Satan would never want us to know the reality of life under the labor and burden of sin. We are to see the glamor, the fun, the gratification, the images of sin romanticized. Hebrews 11:25 speaks of enjoying “the passing pleasures of sin.” The pleasure passes to be followed by regret, and unstoppable consequence. Casting off God’s laws does not bring liberty and successful self-determination but a fall into ungovernable behavior. We become slaves to sin. Paul speaks of this in Romans 7:15-17, For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. If an apostle was a victim to this, then it would be a predictable situation for all.
Jesus brings a profound promise. That burden of sin can be taken away, but something must be done. We must take His yoke. That yoke is created for us and is perfectly fitted. It may seem ironic or even paradoxical but His yoke brings freedom. When we are His then we have freedom from sin. It is a far better condition to work for Christ than to be under the uncontrollable requirements of sin. The next thing is to learn from Christ. His words are not passive and of no effect. His words have the power to free anyone under any burden at any time. Those are promises impossible for anyone to keep except Christ. We can only collect problems and cannot remove the least bit of weight from ourselves, much less help anyone else. Yet in Christ the human soul can find rest. How is this possible? The answer to that question is the best answer possible: because He is gentle, lowly in heart and He is God.
The Truth from Nature
The philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) once wrote, “Nature never deceives us; it is we who deceive ourselves.” That is entirely true. Nature speaks. It never stops speaking. The more we listen the more it has to tell. Nature cannot lie nor can it believe a lie. Nature is the display of reality. It can only reveal the truth. It shows us the laws that govern our world and the entire universe. It is by observing nature that we learn how to live on this earth. Anyone can look at the simplest of things in the world (a rock, a tree, an insect) and learn something from it. A bird or a dragonfly in flight is no optical illusion. They are flying and show us the possibility and principles of flight. A wasp takes plant fibers to form paper and from it builds a nest – a small stinging insect taught us how to make paper. All creatures (flying, swimming, jumping, hunting, big, tiny, etc.) have taught us endlessly. One could learn the principles of swimming by watching a dog in the water. One can understand the immensity of space by just watching the stars and planets. Different parts of nature offer bits for understanding our world, but all of nature joins to speak of one thing far greater. The creation cannot exist in silence and hide its Creator. Nature shows His glory. It declares Him. Often man ignores the obvious truth… “it is we who deceive ourselves.” Man is the only thing that can act contrary to nature. Man is the only one who can tell a lie, believe a lie and follow a lie. Nature cannot be swayed. Reality holds what does not move and it speaks that truth every second. That message always proclaims God.
The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language Where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world. In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun,
Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,