Sunday, March 31, 2013

More than historical fact

As Easter comes to a close I meditate on the statement made by this morning's speaker. Brower urged us to let the resurrection take such a place in our hearts that is transforms our daily behaviors. That's why Easter is symbolized with bunny rabbits and hatchlings--new life. We are a new creation, lets go out and live that way.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Late Meditation on Good Friday

Thank you, lord of my life, for laying down your life to redeem mine.

Thank you, lord of all creation, for redeeming this creation in your created body.

Thank you, king of kings, for not grasping on to your royalty that I may be brought into your courts.

Thank you for what you have done.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Return to Rome: Book Review

Image from Barnes and Noble

The Book

Return To Rome
Francis J. Beckwith

This was another book recommended to me by a good friend. I have undertaken an organic interest in Evangelicalism and what exactly it is. For more on that, check out my review of another book on Evangelicalism.

Return to Rome is Francis J. Beckwith's testimonial on how he initially left the Roman Catholic Church, became the president of the Evangelical Theological Society and subsequently returned to the Roman Catholic Church, leaving his post behind him.

Technical Merit

Beckwith is a superb technical writer. However, his storytelling prowess is not as developed. I give the book 2 of 5 stars for technical merit. He was able to get his point across, even if not in the most captivating manner. After the first two chapters, he begins to lay some theological points down, which is what he is adept at.


Again, this book is a testimonial which recounts Beckwith's spiritual journey. It is honest and unguarded at times. He discusses the fact that he was born and raised in the RC tradition. As he grew and took an interest in theology, he was not stimulated by the RC teachers that were supposed to nourish his spiritual growth, so he turned to the evangelicals who were more than willing to teach young Francis.

Beckwith recounts various academic exploits that drove him to collaborate with real Catholic theologians through the years. A recurring theme is the fact he consistently came up with the same conclusions that were already propagated by the RC. In the end, he makes the difficult decision to resign from his post as president of the ETS in order to receive full communinion with the RC.


A major takeaway for me is the premise of RC versus Evangelical theology. Beckwith succinctly describes Evangelical theology as the process of getting YOU INTO HEAVEN which RC theology is the process of getting HEAVEN INTO YOU. This, of course, is with regard to justification as either an imputed grace or an infused grace.

Either way, we are reliant on grace. Either way, grace is God's gift. Either way, God's free gift of grace should change our lives for the better.

Killing Gays While Eating Crab Cakes

I've been tense lately, prowling Social Media waiting for someone to challenge my inconsistent hermeneutic as I proclaim homosexuality to be a sinful act according to the Bible while enjoying my shellfish dinners.

How I've been feeling recently about overnight...
How I've been feeling recently about overnight theology experts: (Photo credit: CMJimenez)
To tell the truth, those who use that charge are either 1) clearly ignorant of the Bible and how God is revealed therein or 2) not genuinely interested in solid biblical answers to this sensitive topic.

How God reveals himself

The vast majority of Christendom believes in some form of progressive revelation. You may call yourself a dispensationalist or a covenant theologian or some other distinction, fact is, you believe that God moved from a perfect revelation of himself in the garden of Eden to other formats culminating with the Hebrew Theocracy.

A Theocracy is a system of government--political. Given the fact that this political system is a government-sanctioned religion, we have corporate punishment for trespassers. We read not only of dietary and sexual prohibitions, but disobedient children were also put to death.

In the New Testament, the Lord Jesus took on Himself God's corporal punishment for sin and passed forgiveness to his people spiritually. We no longer operate under a political system where God requires capital punishment on the basis of religious grounds. Further, we are absolved from dietary and ceremonial restrictions.

Now that the degree of punishment is gone, sin is left on an equal plane. There is no sin that is worse than another. Notice I have not used the word abomination yet (guess I messed that one up). Christians should believe that no sin is worse than another. All are equally damning for the human soul, regardless of how difficult it is to talk about.

Current Events

In light of that theology, I must say that I politically have every right to state my opinion as based in scripture. However, I don't feel like my faith is going to be shattered in any way that the courts rule. We are not living in a christian nation, we have no legislated morality and probably should not. We should be free to practice our religion as God sees fit.

This post is, admittedly, short and concise. It is in no way a complete exposition on the way God reveals himself through scripture. I suggest further research on either the dispensations of God or his covenants for interested individuals.
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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Friday, March 22, 2013

Bold Service: The heart of the matter

#BTSermon with @Skylarkk

@Skylarkk (Jon Roberts) presented a message last Wednesday night at the Bible Truth prayer meeting and Bible study. The theme for the year is Bold Faith and the focus for the quarter is Bold Service

The difference between Work and Works

Christians tend to get their panties in a bunch when discussing this topic. I've heard many speakers present messages on service that end up undermining the point of service by downplaying good works. When they downplay acts of charitable service, they tend to make it sound like a Christian is fine if they just sit around praying and reading the Bible all day. Granted, good works do not result in salvation, but a Christian who does not do good is not a very good Christian at all.

Take the point referenced above. The process of Sanctification (becoming Saint-like) is one that every Christian undergoes in this life. In fact, it is a natural goal that the Christian should strive for. God does not do the work for the Christian, God presents the task and says, "Pick up your cross and follow me." He wants to break down the things that make you unholy, that is accomplished through hard work.

Letting Christ work in you

"Wait, I thought you said that I had to work in order to become more sanctified. What gives?"

Yes. No. God does want you to step out and do the work, but he already has a plan in place. It's not like you get to decide what work you want to do all Willie Nillie like. Consider the athlete:

How does the athlete get big muscles? How does the athlete get superior lung capacity? How does the athlete look like the person we all want to be? Because he trains to be that way. He lifts the weights, runs the miles and watches his diet. (He could very easily be a "she" as well.)In short: it takes a whole lot of work. It is with this work that the athlete sculpts their body. But how does the athlete know what to do in order to get the body of all our dreams?

The athlete has a trainer. The trainer has studied all the classical fitness and nutrition literature necessary to put a training plan in place. The trainer makes this plan and the athlete must follow it even when it pains him. If he does not, the athlete's body will suffer for it.

In the same way, our work is only effective if it is closely aligned with the plan that Christ has paved. This path is infused with one major element, an element that causes all of selfish humanity to stumble--love.

Love, the most essential nutrient

Love is the most difficult discipline of all. The reason is not because we do not know love. The problem is that we tend to hoard love. When we are busy trying to keep love for ourselves, it's hard to genuinely distribute love to others. We are comfortable when we wrap ourselves with love.

Even the love we think we give is tainted by self love. *Tongue-twister alert!!* Would we love those we love if they did not reciprocate love? Ask yourself the question: "If ___ didn't love me, would I love them this much?"

You shouldn't have to wonder too much about the answer to this question. In fact, the answer probably lies in the answer to my next question: "Do you love your enemies?" Scripture tells us to do good to those who persecute us. How well are we stacking up to the measuring stick of love? If you think this has nothing to do with good deeds, then you are sorely mistaken. This has everything to do with good deeds because the sincerity of our actions is the hardest part of the equation--it is the part that God wants to sanctify.

Remember that Christ didn't leave us without hope.

TALK TO ME: How has Christ's love influenced your life?

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Taste the Glory

Don't you want a taste of the glory to see what it tastes like?

I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one.
John 17.22 NLT

The Quote

As is now our tradition, a video clip:

The Scripture

Jesus gave up an incredible amount of comfort in order to perform his work on this earth. In fact, it could be argued that he gave up everything. No, he did not relinquish his divinity, but he did bind his divinity with human skin.

Corcovado jesus
Corcovado jesus (Photo credit: @Doug88888)
Why did he do all that? For the redemption of his creation. He came to this earth to taste death and please the Father's perfect justice. With his sacrificial act of love, Jesus paved the way for humanity to return to perfect communion with the divine.

But the efficacy Christ's great sacrifice does not stop there. God's people are not just the peasants of heaven. According to John 17, it was always God's will that man be a shareholder of God's own glory. 

Consider what God wants us to be reconciled to--a perfect relationship with him and to be partakers in his own glory. The Lord Jesus took on the robes of humanity so that we may don the robes of divinity. 

The Application

How should this realization affect the Christian's life? It should lead to victorious living. In sports, the team that has won big playoff games and championships is said to have "Championship DNA." The Christian should have the same thing, the blood of the divine is now applied to the Believer's life. We should be ever cognizant of this fact.

Ignacio asked Esteven if he wanted a little taste of the glory. Esteven said no, but if we are honest, our answer will always be yes. Nobody wants to lose, everyone wants to experience the glory of victory. In Christ, we enjoy the ultimate victory every day.

Is there an area in your life where you want to see victory? Know this, God wants you to share in his glory. Yes, in an ultimate sense we will be perfected, but he wants us to glory in the power of the cross right now in that situation you find yourself in.
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Monday, March 18, 2013

Snakes, St. Patrick and the Bible

...Moses made a snake out of bronze and attached it to a pole. Then anyone who was bitten by a snake could look at the bronze snake and be healed!
Numbers 21.9 NLT
Serpent Spiral
Serpent Spiral (Photo credit: Giant Ginkgo)

Snakes and St. Patrick

English: Saint Patrick stained glass window fr...
English: Saint Patrick stained glass window from Cathedral of Christ the Light, Oakland, CA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I have been thinking a bit about snakes in scripture recently. It was a  direct result of yesterday's St Patrick's Day festivities. My Sunday School class was interested in St. Patrick and asked questions, since this particular saint has one of the most historically verifiable traditions of all hagiography (and a personal favorite of mine), I decided that he would make an excellent springboard for spiritual discussion.

Granted, the legend that St. Patrick banished all the snakes from Ireland is not exactly a verifiable story. Granted, geologists are pretty sure that post glacial Ireland never had snakes, but it's still part of the legend and can still be used to make a spiritual point.

Don't believe me? Read on!
Serpent (Photo credit: Cohiba Jack)

Snakes in the Bible

When snakes are mentioned in scripture, it's not usually in a positive light. The only positive reference to a serpent I can think of is when we are told to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves (Matt. 10.16). All other references seem to be negative. Throw in references to dragons and you've got a pretty grim picture of snakes.

The very first image of a snake in most people's minds is probably The Serpent in Genesis 3. This chapter indeed sets the scene for the serpentine symbol in scripture (alliteration for the win!). Serpents are cunning and crafty. This serpent turned a Thou shalt not do it statement into a Thou shalt not pass this up mentality for crying out loud! Snakes are tricky, man!
Aspic (Photo credit: Gonzo Bonzo)

Snakes as punishment

Enmity exists between The Serpent and The Woman. Mankind strives with Satan and often succumbs to his will. Numbers 21 gives us a very graphic, literal image of what takes place in the spiritual hearts of mankind on a daily basis. The children of Israel despise God's goodness, so he sends them fiery serpents as a punishment, and they begin to die as a result.

The spiritual lesson here is unmistakable, unrepentant man despises God's grace on a daily basis. Every time he does so, he risks spiritual ruin. The Serpent is a symbol of the scourge of humanity, his struggle with sin and the wages thereof. These snakes bring about spiritual anguish and death.

Snakes as hope

You know how God loves to take the weak things and confound the strong? He does the same with this topic of snakes (and thorns too by the way). We know from our Genesis 3 prophecy that The Serpent will bruise The Seed's heel, and The Seed will crush The Serpent's head. There is hope for the defeat of this scourge of humanity.

In Numbers 21, a bronze serpent was constructed and lifted up. All who looked upon the bronze serpent were assured of full recovery from their poisonous wounds. Notice that the image to be constructed was in the same likeness as the punishment endured. This is critical. The cure closely resembles the disease.

The Numbers passage is referenced in John 3 by the Lord Jesus. He claimed to be the fulfillment of that picture to Nicodemus. Except, instead of a pole, Jesus was on a cross and instead of a bronze serpent it was the Son of God and instead of snake bites Jesus was curing death.

He cured death by dying.

He defeated it by rising again.

Mortality meets immortality. Humanity meets divinity. So The Serpent is crushed. It is brilliant and beautiful.
Saint Patrick
Saint Patrick (Photo credit: elycefeliz)

St. Patrick and the snakes

Did St. Patrick banish snakes from Ireland? The naturalists will cast doubts on that, but as a Christian, I have to admit that he was a tool in God's hand to drive the curse of The Serpent out of Ireland. He was the first successful missionary to the island. Missionaries bring the message of the Gospel. Clearly, the antidote for the poison of spiritual snakes is the good news of Christ.

It makes perfect sense to me. For that matter, we need more people who are willing to distribute the antidote. By the way, antivenom for snake bites are made by taking the venom from a snake, injecting it into a host and harvesting the antibodies from the host's blood. The antibodies from the host's blood are then injected into the victim of a snake bite, and should rescue them from peril.

Do you see how this relates to Christ, who tasted death so that we would not have to? Does this not mirror the power in the blood of Jesus?

A word on Denominationalism

I've heard of people who refused to celebrate or even acknowledge St. Patrick due to the fact that he was Catholic. I find this perplexing for one reason: St. Patrick's ministry occurred in the early 5th century A.D., the Protestant Reformation did not splinter the Church into denominationalism until the 16th century A.D. I am not certain that there was much of a choice in St. Patrick's time other than Christian vs. Pagan.
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Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Nitty Gritty

So anyways, let's get down to the nitty gritty. Who is this Encarnacion?

I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead.
Philippians 3.10a NLT

The Quote

I might just give you the quote recap this way from now on:

The Scripture

Just as a man desires a relationship with a woman, so God desires to have a relationship with us. In fact, he wanted this relationship so badly, that he came into this world so that he could die in our place and grant us his power over death--the resurrection.

We should respond to this mighty act of love by being drawn to Christ, and desiring to know him more. We should desire to get down to the nitty gritty--to forsake our own pretentiousness -and learn about his character. Anyone who would love so dangerously is worth investigation.
The Resurrection of Christ (Kinnaird Resurrection)
The Resurrection of Christ (Kinnaird Resurrection) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Application

Let's get down to the nitty gritty in our own spiritual lives. Notice the silence in that video clip. Was it unnerving? There may be times when you need to be silent and truly take stock of your spiritual state. Any good relationship needs honesty, since Christ is the epitome of perfection, any dishonest communication is bound to come from ourselves.

Also take note of the results of this kind of honesty--power. There is power in the resurrection that Christ awards us with. We can live and speak and write and share with boldness that our future is set. We have the peace which comes from assurance of a solid relationship with the Almighty. After admitting  our weaknesses we can rest in his strength. I suppose that is the point of the Gospels. We were too weak to save our lives initially, why do we convince ourselves we can live them on our own strength?
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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A New Pope: My reaction

English: Cardinal Jorge M. Bergoglio SJ, Archb...
English: Cardinal Jorge M. Bergoglio SJ, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, celebrating mass at the XX Exposición del Libro Católico (20th Catholic Book Fair), in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Español: Cardenal Jorge M. Bergoglio SJ, Arzobispo de Buenos Aires, celebrando misa en la XX Exposición del Libro Católico, en Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today's Big News

So there's a new pope out there! Today the world was introduced to Pope Francis I, who is actually well known in Argentina as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio. His major claims to fame revolve around strong pro-family stances against gay marriage and abortion despite political pressure from the Argentine government to cave in to modernity. As a bonus, he is a Jesuit and therefore trained in the defense of the gospel by use of Apologetics.

My Part in All This

I issued out a simple tweet (also promoted to Facebook), which I had no idea what the reception thereof would be, yet I was extremely curious what it would be like. Would it become popular? Would I be met with resistance? Would I be ignored? I felt that the latter was most likely, but I decided to go through with my heartfelt post despite potential repercussions.

What's the Big Deal?

I suppose the big deal is that I am in the minority when it comes to my view of Roman Catholicism and it's relationship with Christianity. (In short, my analysis is that RC is a Christian denomination due to their affirmation of the gospel of Christ.) I have plenty of friends whom I respect and consider true brothers and sisters in Christ that adhere to Roman Catholic denominations.

I had an experience this evening with one of those Chick Tract toting individuals who believe the Pope will somehow unite all the diverse religions in the world and elevate himself as the one to be worshiped. He even pointed to cosmology and weather storms as proof that the Pope is evil incarnate.

In the End

I am not writing this article to promote one view of the end times over another. Perhaps an evil Pope will rise and undermine the traditional teachings of the church and compromise it's integrity in order to follow the Antichrist. There are many views regarding eschatology, I hold none of them as a litmus test for one's devotion to Christ.

In the end, the important thing to remember is that the Pope is the elected official to lead the world's largest denomination in conjunction with an assembly of Cardinals. He is a man who has devoted his life to Christ. As such, all Christians should pray that he leans on the Holy Spirit within him as his guide. Like it or not, he is a leader of Christianity. At the very (very) least, he is viewed by the world as a leader of the Christian world. As such, we should pray that he sets a good example.

Given the initial reports of his family values, strength in the face of political oppression and passion for social justice, I have hope that this man may become a great example of Christianity. May he live up to the words of the man whose name he bears:
Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.
-- St. Francis of Assisi
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Thursday, March 7, 2013

You're Crazy!

"I'm not listening to you, you're crazy." 

Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. Matthew 7:15 NLT

The Quote

There is no better way to describe this quote:

The Scripture

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...
Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglican Church  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Matthew Seven contains the grand conclusion of Jesus' sermon on the mount. It begins with Christ's proclamation that we are not to condemn one another. He then proceeds to explain how we should be discerning in our own personal decisions. I wrote a separate topic on this chapter creatively entitled: Judge Wisely: Matthew 7.

In that article, I pointed out the fact that verses 15-20 seem to teach that followers of Christ need to choose their influences carefully. Clearly, Christ was separating his teaching from the teaching of others who may use his words and method for malicious purposes.

The Application

We need to be careful who our influences are. We are molded by those we trust the most. There are influences, both liberal and conservative, whose messages directly contradict scriptural principles.

We need to develop the wherewithal to tell certain influences, "I'm not listening to you, you're crazy."

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