Friday, December 16, 2011

Thoughts to ponder this season

Greetings my friends and readers:

Let me pause just a bit for a reflection more than anything else.  Right now we are in the midst of the holiday season, leading to the climax of the celebration of the birth Jesus on the day traditionally set many centuries ago.  So let’s reflect on a few thoughts.

Sadly enough this is the season many who do not like the Christian faith love to trot out the pagan side of Christians, that the date and many of its customs were adopted from the pagans that surrounded the early church as it went from being a persecuted minority to the Roman empires state church.  I won’t dispute that nor defend the celebration.  Really, from the fourth century on the new “Universal,” or “Catholic” church adopted so much from the pagan world that the Apostles and early Christian wouldn’t recognize it as Christian if they were set right down in the middle of it today.  But that’s not the point.

The holiday was meant to focus people’s attention on our savior under the guise of celebrating his birth, which was no insignificant event because of what it led to.  Whatever day he was born Jesus came to this earth for a purpose, to make it possible for all of us, every one of us both the living and the dead to have the chance Adam took away from us to enjoy eternal life when he took the very first bite of the fruit from the forbidden tree (1 Tim. 2:3-6).

“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.(1Cor. 15:22)

More than two thousand years after the event many of the devout are so focused on for all the wrong reasons this perfect man, miraculously conceived in a virgin for the purpose of standing in Adam’s stead gave up that life as a sacrifice to redeem us all and give us that chance for eternal life that Adam gave away.  What is more, he also purchased for some the unfathomable opportunity to be a nation of rulers and priests (Rev. 20: 4-6) who partake of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4).  And as if that weren’t enough, by making that sacrifice he answered forever the charge Satan made to Eve that God acts out of improperly selfish motives for all of eternity (Gen. 3:4,5).  Yes, it is the end not the beginning which is really significant and on which we should focus our minds.

So as we go about our lives during this season, whether we celebrate the day or not, let’s ponder the real significances of the event being celebrated, the event which was just the start of the path to the best gift of all the inestimably precious gift of eternal life which will be laid out before all at its due time.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

How to Study God's Word

Greetings again my friends and any interested who come across my blog:

Since I hope I’ve laid a sufficient basis for the bible being God’s word to mankind, enough that we can move on to other things, like teachings.  As they come up along the way other things I know which reaffirm to me that we can have confidence in the Bible will be examined as we get there.  Now we start to put the rubber to the road.

How does one study the Bible to get at truth?  I know it is a good habit to either read or listen to the bible daily, I post a reading assignment and small devotion on my Facebook page daily.   However, that isn’t study.  Early on in tis blog I posted Psalm 1:1,2”

“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.  But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.”

Notice the way the Psalmist stresses the idea of meditation?  He doesn’t mean meditation in the sense we often hear it expressed in connection with transcendental meditation.  No, he is peaking about pondering over the things read and learned in order to gain insight and clarity of vision into what God’s word really teaches.  That takes real work.  That is because God didn’t always just lay it out so the truth becomes obvious to anyone.  He does that with some teachings, but he who created us knows we remember better and appreciate that which we work for.  He also invites those who are best for the great prize because they are willing to put the effort into making his word and his truth their own.

There are several methods of Bible Study.  Most rely on books written by trained expositors to help them in their quest for insight into the word.  However, that only works if the expositor in question has a truly accurate insight into the word; most don’t for all their expensive training.  That is because most universities and seminaries are run by organizations with their own creeds and their study is oriented around reinforcing said creed in the minds and hearts of their students.  Inquiry which leads another way, even if the evidence is legit, is discouraged.

So what is the independent student to do?  How can he or she study God’s word and arrive at an objective understanding of it and truth?

I use several closely related methodologies of study myself because of my skills, all of them focused on the Bible text for that is where the real Gold is to be found.  The most basic and important of these is the Topical method of biblical study.  I will put up a link to a booklet which discusses the method in depth, along with some important points for the study of Bible prophecy, it is downloadable for free from the page I’ll link to and is in PDF format.  It can also be purchased from the folks who own the site, but rest assured there is no financial incentive in it for me in its recommendation.

Basically, what the topical methodology amounts to is that one looks up every verse in the bible which bears on a subject, including those which appear to be contradictory to the general flow of the majority, then one seeks to understand how the verses harmonize and what they are saying to us on the topic.  “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” Paul wrote to his younger fellow worker in the Lord’s field (1 Tim. 3:16) and he meant it.  What many don’t realize was that he was writing about what we popularly call the Old Testament, the new one not having been written yet.

In time his words, as well as those of others of his contemporaries, came to be recognized for the scriptures they are.  And Christians extend Paul’s words to include them as well.  So where am I going with this?  While we aren’t under the old covenant with its law, we cannot ignore what the Old Testament witnesses as to truth, as some do.  The Old Testament lays a foundation for us with respect to doctrines, a foundation both Jesus and later early writers built on.  They gave greater clarity to some things, expanded others, and, yes, introduced some new concepts along the way.  But they appealed to the old for authority for much of what they said and made it clear we weren’t to ignore it, as Paul’s words above make crystal clear.

So the principle involved is to search the scriptures, much like the Bereans of old (Acts 17:10-12) with the same diligent determination to arrive at the truth.  One good way to do that is with the aid of a good concordance of God’s word.  An excellent one is Strong’s exhaustive concordance of The Bible.  Strong’s lists every word in the King James Bible and identifies every Greek and Hebrew word from which the English comes.  It also Contains a lexicon with brief definitions of all those words as well.  Since most publishers of lexicons have adopted the Strong’s numbering system as well, it makes it easier to utilize more comprehensive lexicons, such as Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, a very excellent lexicon at an economical price.

Strong’s allows easy access to a wide array of scriptural passages which bear on a given subject.  All one needs to figure out what words to look for.  The lexicon gives alternative meanings so that one may fill out the scriptural picture by looking up a word, such as the Hebrew nephesh, or “soul” (H5315) and seeing how it’s used throughout the Old Testament and how that may help us gain insight into the soul and its nature.  Try it if you already have Strong’s good friend and see if you don’t find yourself in for quite a surprise.

Now you know the foundational methodology which will guide this blog.  I won’t go through every occurrence of words for obvious reasons, and I will bring in other information and sources as I judge them appropriate.  However, that is my primary methodology of biblical study with my focus being on the text of God’s word instead of mens reasoning and interpretations.

The Booklet mentioned earlier is here:

And it will be linked in my link section as well.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

On Creation

There is a lot of things going around on-line these days about the religious beliefs of candidates. Much of the writing is negative and stereotypes not only the candidates in question, but Christians in general as well. With all of this going on I thought it appropriate to do an article or two on creation from the biblical standpoint and see if I can't clear up a few misconceptions about what the bible says and doesn't say about God's creation.

We are told by the media that we Christian believe that the entire universe was created in just seven days about 6,000 years or so ago. Well, many Christians do believe that, I won't deny it. But our interest here is what doe the bible say on the subject. What is says is something many of my readers will find surprising, and some may object to. All I ask is for those who are taken aback by what I write take a few to sit back and think on it before jumping all over me with your posts.

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)

εν αρχη εποιησεν ο θεος τον ουρανον και την γην “ (LXX)

בראשית ברא אלהים את השמים ואת הארץ׃ " (BHS)

That's it, that's all it says as I just quoted in English, Greek,and Hebrew. It just tells us that God created the heavens and the earth and nothing else. It doesn't tell us when he did it, that is, how long ago. It doesn't tell us how he did it. It just tells us he did. Everything else inferred about it, that he had a co-creator for the universe, that co-creator was the Word, or Jesus in his pre-human existence, all of it is inferred from elsewhere in the Bible.

From this statement we can infer that the initial creation of the heavens and the earth could well be billions of years ago as scientists allege. And that would make quite a bit of sense because what we see so far through our telescopes indicates universal creation is quite a bit of work which logically would take some time. Some spectacular photos we've been treated to courtesy of the Hubbard telescope may well show stars in the process of being created, at least that's what scientists think. If true those pictures show us that God was patient and took his time to build this universe for which he has great plans. So where does all the confusion come in?

It is simple really. Theologians can't seem to separate that passage of scripture from the ones which follow. They insist the two are expressions of the same event, the first tells us he did it , but the second tells us how he did it. I humbly submit they've got it wrong.

I believe that when had Moses write the first chapter of Genesis the way he did the wording was deliberate. We are meant to understand that God first made the heavens and the earth, and then turned his attention to the earth specifically to prepare it as the home for his supreme creation on the material plane of existence, mankind. That theory conforms remarkably to what scientists think happened, despite their denial of a supreme being, and is the only theory which is realistic. Note the very next verse:

The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” (Gen. 1:2, ASV)

Isn't this exactly what we might expect if the theory this writer advances is correct? Doesn't it makes better sense than the belief that the heavens were empty on this plane of anything other than the earth, the conclusion one has to reach if one reads the scripture with the traditional understanding? This also eliminate one problem with the traditional theory, God “creates” light on the first day of creation (Gen 1:3-5). If the entire universe was created during that six-day period then when were the heavens and the earth created? The bible tells us that only light was created that first day. Think about it.

So, we're at the point where we see things from the perspective of the earth. The picture scientist present for us as to the early days of the earth is remarkably similar. The earth isn't much more than a huge piece of rock covered in water and surrounded by a dense, toxic atmosphere which doesn't allow light to penetrate to the surface. The first logical thing to do is to get rid of the toxic gases which are dangerous to the life god plans to create and place on the earth. That would let light shine through the atmosphere and light would seem to be created from the standpoint of one standing upon the earth when it happens. That the amount of light shining through would initially be little and grow brighter as the gas clouds continue to thin is apparent given the progression of the narrative.

As the light reaches the surface the water begins to evaporate at God's command causing the toxic gas clouds to be replaced by water vapor and clouds, creating the “firmament” of verses six through eight. That is the second day, or more properly era by the way. Next, when the water evaporates enough to drop the sea level dry land appears and God calls forth first life, plant life. The scripture here only speaks of the obvious and most vivible forms of life, the vegetation one looking on would see. Again, we are here being presented a picture from the standpoint of one standing on the surface of the earth while this is happening. This is also consistent with what scientists believe as they believe plant life, both single as well as multi-cellular was what came first. Both developments, land and vegetation form the accomplishments of the third era.

God's next work is to clear up the atmosphere to the point that the luminaries, the sun, moon and stars now shine down upon the earthly surface. Then God goes on over the next eras to first create animal life in the oceans, then upon the land. Then he finally creates man. Again, although these sequences don't quite match up completely with what scientists think happened, they do match up well enough to give one pause for thought. Try that one against any other creation account written. Only the bible comes anywhere close.

One note then one word. First, note the I kept using the word era to describe the creative days. The Hebrew word yom, or day cover pretty much the same range of meanings as our English word and can refer to an era as well. And I think that meaning is the appropriate one here. Next, in spite of the impression given I don't believe the bible must conform with science. However, I do find it a basis for confidence that the two have some remarkable agreement when one compares them objectively. I've watched some of the fossil finds concerning birds changing the scientific view slowly towards the bible's statement and see that as a further confirmation of the veracity of the biblical account.

It is amazing to watch god's word being confirmed in such matters as it gives us a more sure foundation for our faith in the other things it has to say. That makes it a solid standard from which we can proceed to discuss other aspects faith and belief.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Greeting’s friends!

Love is a very important concept to genuine followers of Jesus.  The Apostle Paul tells us that it is the most important quality that those who want to please God would seek to cultivate (1Cor. 13:13).  The whole thirteenth chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians consist of an essay on my love is so important.  Finally, John explains the greatest reason why love is so important to the child of God, he tells us that it is God’s greatest quality because “God is love” (! John 4:8, 14), that is God is the very personification of the quality of love.  I know that concept is hard for many to grasp since those who seek to undermine belief in and smear God use supposed injustices and horrors on his part as a tool towards there goals.  So let’s take a look at what love is from the biblical stand point through and exploration of the Greek and Hebrew words in the bible underlying the quality of love.

First, to the Hebrew, basically the Hebrew word for love is ahabah (H160) and it means pretty much the same thing our English word means.  So, whatever we would mean by it in a given context will more often than not be the same in the Hebrew context.  That makes it one easy word to work with.  The second word, ahab (H157), is a participle which is from the same root and tends to be used of a “friend” (Prov. 14:20.)  Those are the nouns.  The verb is ahab (H157) and is simply the verb form of ahabah.  Again it covers the same territory as the English verb to love.

The other major word which is often translated as love is chesed (H2617).  It covers both the idea of love along with loyaltyChesed is used I connection with god’s relationship with Israel using the beautiful picture of a married relationship between God and Israel much like that between the Christ and the church (Hosea 2:21 [BHS]).  It can refer to Kindness and is used in that sense at 2 Sam. 9:7.  Israel was told to have chesed towards the lowly and needy (Hosea 6:6) and is used of the reason behind God’s creation (Psalm 136:5-9).

I think most folks are aware that the Ancient Greek language uses five words to bring nuance to the concept of love and two of those words are used in the bible in verb form, agapao (G25) and phileo (G5386).  Phileo basically refers to the love between best friends and is analogous to the love fellow soldiers feel for their friends among their fellow troops.  It is a love strong enough that one is willing to lay down their live to save their friend from serious harm or death.  Contrast that with agapao, which is a more generic kind of love and the contrast of the two we find in the narrative at John 21:15-17 really comes alive for us.  There Jesus asks Peter if he loves (agapao) him, and Peter in his typically dramatic fashion answers that he Loves (phileo) him.  The implication is that despite his personal failure on the night before Jesus’ death he would now die for him and means it with all his heart and being.  We all know that Peter followed through on that promise.

Because it gets used so little in the NT I think it gets a bit overlooked by Christians.  At 1 Cor.16:22 Paul tells Christians “If anyone doesn’t love (phileo) the Lord let him be cursed!”  Paul is essentially telling the brethren in Corinth that the selfless, agape love he usually promotes is not enough when it comes to loving our Lord Jesus.  We should have the same kind of love Peter articulated for our love and be willing to go as far as he did.  Since we are baptized into his death, that kind of love for him, and I submit the brethren as well given all the military connotations used in scripture for the brethren, is most appropriate.

Agapao is often called the “characteristic word” of. Christianity because of how often it’s used in the NT and the emphasis placed on it by the bible writers.  This is a word which is often hard to wrap one’s mind around.  All other types of love occur because the object of our affection has some sort of good quality about them which raises them above others be it sexual attraction, familial love, or the love we feel for close friends.  This love doesn’t depend on any such attraction and cares not whether it is returned in any fashion.  It is often called an exercise in will, or a cold, rational love.  I personally think that the best way to look at it is that we love all of humanity because they are all made in the image of God and thus worthy of our love in spite of their imperfections and irregardless of any hope of it being returned.

Viewed in that light it is easy to see why completely consecrated Christians are real danger to nobody.  The real church, the Christ’s bride, does not force conversions.  They do not seek temporal control over others, nor to force their values and ways on those who do not want them.  That is not the purpose of the church.  Those who follow closely in the footsteps of the master live their lives in accordance with their deep love for God and desire to please him by keeping his commandments (1 John 3:23,24).  For further contemplation on the subject of love and how it relates to those who want to please our heavenly father, read the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians and the entire first letter written by the aged Apostle John.  That last one is especially interesting because it represents John’s reflections on nearly seventy years of a relationship with God and his service to him, much as his gospel also does.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

An Important word

Greetings in the Lord dear readers and friends:  

Before I go on there are a few necessary things I need to state so that all of you, my readers, won’t get confused as I post on topics.  First of all, unless otherwise noted I will quote the scripture from the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible.  My decision to do that instead of some other version I think more accurate is because the KJV is the most widely known and trusted of the scriptures in the English language.  Where I might choose to quote another version because I think it gives an insight on the verse in question, I will cite the version using accepted international abbreviations, in parenthesis, just as I gave for my readers a moment ago.  Since I am a student of the Bible’s languages I may at times translate a verse myself where I believe doing so may give my readers some insight into the text.  I will always note such translation thusly, (S).

Because it is the basis for the New Testament and widely accepted in the English speaking world I will quote the Textus Receptus (TR) when appealing to the Greek text in which God inspired the Apostles and others to write the New Testament for us.  When I deviate from that course because I believe the TR text to be lacking, I will make an appropriate note on the matter.  When appealing to the Hebrew text of the Old Testament (OT), I will use the excellent Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia  (BHS) as the standard.

When writing about specific words from the original languages in the Bible’s text I will provide the Strong’s number along with the word in the format commonly used today.  That means the number itself will be prefixed with the letter G or H, e.g. H5315 and G5590, which are for the numbers for the words nephesh and psyche, the Hebrew and Greek words for soul respectively.  For those unfamiliar with what I’m talking about,. James Strong published a concordance to the KJV in 1890 which included brief lexicons, or dictionaries for the Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic languages.  Mr. Strong assigned every word in the original Hebrew and Greek texts behind the KJV Bible a number for the purpose of ease in looking up up the words in his lexicon section, and gave said number for the word in every citation of a verse where it appeared.  Mr. Strong’s numbers became a standard over the years for identification and citation of a word so that there is no confusion as to which word is meant.  Most new lexicons use the numbers as well and some interlinear editions of the New Testament also provide the number for readers’ convenience as well.

Where I think it is important I will also appeal to the early texts from languages into which the bible was translated, such as the Latin, Aramaic, Coptic, and Gothic.  While I‘ll probably use the Vulgate as my primary Latin text, I will cite from the Vestus, or early Latin texts which predate the Vulgate where I believe the rendering there appropriate.  The Coptic editions of the New Testament are some of the earliest translations available to us, the Sahidic dating back into the Second Century A.D., and form a much overlooked resource for students of God’s word.  The Sahidic Coptic text of the NT is especially important given the antiquity of the text and a number of features of the language itself which make it different from the other early languages and make it important to the study of God’s word.

All of these texts and resources plus many more can be found at the Unbound Bible website, which is linked to in my links section.  It is an excellent site for those who want to compare various Bible Translations in English as well as other languages and check into the ancient languages as well.  Another great resource is the e-sword Bible Study program and the Online Bible program for computers, both of which are free programs.  I will link them as well.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

God's Word.

Christians are called “the people of the book” by Islam’s founder, Mohammed.  Why would he make that observation?  Simply put good Christians were students of God’s word first and foremost, even in his day.  The psalmist observed about the godly person that “his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” (Psalm 1:2)  That is because the child of God takes it as a given that the Bible is God’s inspired word and only though meditating on it’s message can he or she draw close to God and learn how to please him as our father.

But how can I say that?  After all, experts say it is the product of men, a product of the church and “God’ has nothing to do with it.  Believe it or not I consider that a legitimate question, one which everyone who is called by the name “Christian” needs to be sure of for himself.  Thomas Jefferson wrote "Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear."  Many consider those words blasphemous, but not I.  Contrary to what the nominal churches teach I believe, through my study of God, that he wants us to prove for ourselves what sort of God he really is.  He wants us to come to him out of appreciation for his good qualities rather than abject fear of the possible horrific consequences if we don’t.  We are told that “God is love” (1 john 4:8).  If that is true wouldn’t it stand to reason that he would want us to prove things for ourselves, much as Jefferson suggested?  I think so.

First let me state for the record that I consider the existence of a creator of this universe and all things in it self evident.  From the tiniest particle known to man to the far reaches we can view through the most powerful of telescopes creation is remarkably ordered, showing evidence of design, not chance.  In recent years stories of astronomers and molecular biologists, nurtured on the philosophy of materialism, have come forward to tell of inexorably coming to the conclusion after studying nature for many years that there is a creator.  My own humble studies of chemistry and anatomy & physiology in college while I sought my own Bachelor’s degree in one of the social sciences reaffirmed for me as well that there is a creator.

So why do I believe the Bible to be the message of a creator to us, his creation?  The answer is easy; compare it with any or all other religious texts.

As a book it is more thoroughly attested to than any other book from ancient times.  Where other ancient texts are represented by a handful of copies and fragments, the Bible is represented by literally thousands of copies and fragments, some to within a few years of the penning of the original texts.  Because of that abundance of copies we can be assured of the accuracy of the text in a manner no other text comes close to.  Because of that abundance we can identify mistakes in copying and deliberate attempts to corrupt the text and eliminate them.  Again, the same can’t be said of any other book from antiquity.  Do not those facts alone constitute proof that the Bible is God’s word and that he took great pains to make sure that we have it in precisely the form he wanted us to have it?  I think so despite attempts for the last century to hold otherwise.  But we will cover some of those specifics in future posts as appropriate.

 Look at the very first chapters of the Bible in the book of Genesis.  As a young man I was an avid collector of rocks, minerals, and fossils.  When I finally got around to reading the creation account in Genesis my jaw dropped.  The order of creation, as listed in the Bible, was remarkably close to what I knew as a collector of fossils the order of life to be.  Sure, the match up wasn’t exact, but it was close enough for me to be amazed.  Check it out.  Set aside the business about “six” days and look at the order of the preparation of the earth for life, and then its population with life and see for yourself if it isn’t remarkable.  I’ve since checked and know that the fossil deposits in the Sinai Peninsula is not a complete enough record for even a man as brilliant as Moses was said to be to extrapolate it with anywhere near the accuracy of the creation account.  And recent fossil discoveries seem to hold more closely to the order of Genesis than before.  The only rational explanation for such accuracy is that it was revealed to the writer by the creator in some way.

There is much more, however, I do want to keep this column short enough to be an easy read.  In short, I believe I’ve briefly given the seeker after truth enough to see that the Bible is the word of the universe’s creator to mankind, to us.  Being such I think we can take it as a given that the Bible, then, is something which can be used as a standard upon which we can proceed for knowledge and guidance.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

You are the Salt of the earth!

"You are the Salt of the earth;"

Jesus' statement here is one of those telling his followers that they are to be forces for good, examples of light to a world in darkness.  Salt is a spice which enhances the flavor of food, it makes otherwise unpalatable tasting dishes edible.  It is in this spirit that I intend to use this blog as a guide for those hungry for God's word, and how it can help us to live our lives more fully in this stormy world which surrounds us.

As a Christian of many years God's word, and what it says for us today, is my most important study.  It tells us of the past, guides us through the future and points us towards the glorious future when death, sickness, and pain will be no more (Rev. 21:4).  It is true, and however much many deny it today, consistent, making it a reliable guide for our paths in this life.

As a student of it, I am also a student of it languages, and those into which it was translated early on.  I’m self-taught where those languages are concerned and make no claims of academic scholarship.  I am also a student of where God’s word came from, how we came to have it as we do today.  All these things I hope to bring to bear on the many subjects we will cover together through this blog.

I am not what one would call mainstream, having come out of the Adventist tradition, and I make no apologies for that.  I will call it as I see it and let the cards fall where they may.

Still, in the spirit of the scripture cited at the beginning of this post, Matthew 5:13, I will do my best to flavor my writing with salt; for my goal is to help others in their journey through this life, and to become believers in the son of God, if they are not already.