Jesus, Friend of All

(Hello again; hopefully I’m back for a little while. I took a small vacation from the blogging world, but I hope to get back a little bit soon. Thanks for your patience.)

Jesus was undoubtedly the most influential man in the entire Bible. There were great prophets, gifted speakers, and even radical converts, but the words that weigh heaviest and are most awe-inspiring are the ones Jesus spoke.

One of the most encouraging passages in my mind of Jesus’ is Matthew 9:10-13, where Jesus is dining with Matthew at his house.

Throughout the course of the Gospels, Jesus is tried countless times regarding the validity of His being the Son of God, and I am always fascinated by His quick and applicable answers. When the Pharisees tried to trick him by asking if the tax should be paid, He had the perfect answer, which avoided stirring up anger for either the Romans or the taxpayers. The same quick wit and ability to counter these tricks is seen in Matthew 9:10-13: “10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ 12 On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’”

Nowadays, people in high authority or power do not mingle with the lower people. They tend to stick to their high-class, enjoying the admiration they receive from the lower classes and association with the associates in the high-class. But Jesus, Friend of all, was not like that in any sense. He would eat meals on the beach with fishermen, borrow a donkey to ride, borrow a small room for His last meal, and literally lived a life of servitude to people who had no idea who He was. He did not take advantage of His being God for Himself, but used it to benefit the people. He came to heal the people, both physically in some cases and spiritual in all cases. He, in his powerful position, came not to lead but to serve the lowest people he could find. Unlucky fishermen He made his second-in-command, and a tax-collector, one of the most scorned men around, he took into His company too. He made time for the lower-class citizen’s children, and approached the ones the rest of the world avoided. He was a caring, loving God. He was a friend of all. And He still is a friend of all. He sends forth men and women to other countries, to other states, to other cities, and to their own dwellings to bring the news of Christ to the world. So how can we not speak out? How can we stay silent? How can we love and serve Jesus, who devoted His entire existence on earth to serving “the least of these”, if we don’t follow His divine example? You don’t have to be low-class to reach the needy, nor do you have to be high-class to be able to do something. Reach out to those who are neglected by the world, reach out to those who have been neglected by the rest. Serve those who have never been served before – and do it all in the name of Jesus.

Christophobia

Apologetics Press released a thought provoking article yesterday that I thought was worthy of sharing. (Read original and view additional material here)

 

 Dave Miller, Ph.D.

Q:

Are Christians “homophobic”?

A:

The PC crowd regularly and incessantly levels charges of “phobia” against all those who disagree with them on any number of moral issues.1 If you believe the Bible teaches that homosexuality is sinful, you are declared “homophobic” or “lesbophobic”; if you believe Islam is a false religion that endangers the American way of life, you are deemed “Islamophobic”; if you are concerned about the moral and spiritual impact on the nation of those who enter America illegally, you are labeled “xenophobic”; if you believe in the God of the Bible and consider atheism to be false, you are “atheophobic”; if you believe transgenderism is a mental illness, you are demeaned as “transphobic”; and the list goes on.

These charges are unfounded, inaccurate, and untrue. True Christians are not irrationally afraid of such things. Rather, they have given considered analysis to each issue, including a careful assessment of what the Bible teaches (and, generally, what once characterized American civilization), and concluded that these behaviors are immoral and harmful to society. Neither do they fear murderers, thieves, or fornicators. Rather they recognize such behaviors as sinful in God’s sight, unhealthy and detrimental to civil society, and actions that will ultimately cost the practitioner his soul for all eternity (Galatians 5:19-21; Revelation 21:8). True Christians love such people and experience genuine sorrow over their self-destructive condition (Matthew 5:44; 23:37; Ezekiel 18:32).

Yet, error is always inconsistent, hypocritical, and actually guilty of the malady it decries. The same people who fill the airways with their cries of “intolerance!” and “judgmental!” are the very ones who are extremely intolerant, judgmental, and fearful (phobic) of anything or anyone who believes in the Bible and Christianity. Indeed, they are Christophobic—irrationally afraid of and bitterly opposed to the precepts of Christ and the biblical principles on which America was founded.

Satan has always been “slick” in his ability to divert attention away from spiritual reality and generate opposition against the truth—like the Wizard of Oz who said, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”2 Sinful, wicked behaviors as defined by Deity are damaging to people physically and spiritually. They cannot be justified or dismissed as trivial simply because those who champion them mischaracterize the righteous as “phobic” or “hateful.” Those who speak against moral, godly principles—and those who defend them—are truly guilty of “hate speech.”

“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness” (Isaiah 5:20). “But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption, and will receive the wages of unrighteousness” (2 Peter 2:12-13).

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness…, evil-mindedness; they are…haters of God…, inventors of evil things…, who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them (Romans 1:28-32).

ENDNOTES

1 Tommy Christopher (2016), “Here’s the Full Context of Hillary Clinton’s ‘Basket of Deplorables’ Remark About Trump Supporters,” Mediaite, September 10, https://goo.gl/KivljF.

2 The Wizard of Oz (1939), “Quotes,” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0032138/quotes.

Copyright © 2016 Apologetics Press, Inc. All rights reserved.

Not Peace but Division

I have come to bring fire on the earth, and I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three (Luke 12:49-52).” This is very contradictory to a sermon I heard about two years ago. The speaker was saying how Jesus came to bring joy and peace to this world. While He did bring joy, peace has not been here for quite some time. While the speaker had some interesting points and five verses to back up his position, I think he missed this verse.
I did not want to bash his sermon; that is not the purpose of this post. I wanted to go more into the verse above, and simply thought it was interesting that these verses contradicted each other. Or do they? Look at the context in the first verse a little closer. “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and I wish it were already kindled!” He is speaking metaphorically at the time, obviously. He is not kindling a physical fire. But if you think about a fire, kindling it is what gets it started strong. It’s what gets it started. He came to open the doors between mankind and God. He was kindling the overall plan for man. He was getting God’s operation started. Now, look at the next sentence: “But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed!” Well, if you recall, He was already baptized in Matthew 3, Mark 1, Luke 3, and John’s recollection of it in John 1. So why would He need to be baptized again? Take a look at these two verses:
I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire (Matt. 3:11).” “I baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8).” The baptism that Jesus was referring to was his crucifixion; the release of His Holy Spirit and being bathed in His blood. Jesus was referring to His crucifixion which would occur years later.
And what constraint I am under until it is completed!” This is His desire to miss the crucifixion; to escape from His death. We can see His distressed self showing in Matthew 26:37-45 (Gethsemane prayer). He is weeping and asking that the cup, the symbol He uses for His blood at the Last Supper, might be removed from Him. Or in other words, that He might be granted free from the yoke and pain of the crucifixion that would only days after occur. But God did not remove His yoke, for to do so would make Jesus’ entire reason for being on earth go viral.
Why do you think it is that God came to bring division on the earth?
In my mind, it is not as we envision. From this verse and other verses, we see Jesus speaking in parables, and often with hidden meanings that we cannot detect. It is so here.
He did not come to rouse the people up and fight with one another. He came to bring Christianity and salvation into the world, and in doing so, brought division and persecution and hate and all those things that are familiar to Christians, both in America and foreign countries. Couldn’t God prevent that? Yes. But then that would invalidate His words, “…Take up your cross, and follow me (Matt. 16:24)” Christianity will not be easy. There will be a constant struggle against mankind and the devil himself. But when it is over, your reward – an eternity with Jesus Christ – will be oh-so worth it!

New Blog!

Hello all. A Message for the Messenger has been going for a little over a year now, and I had made plans for expansion. Well, I’ve branched off of A Message for the Messenger into a new blog, God’s Law and Order. This new blog is about America’s decisions and how they line up with God’s commands, rules, etc. So if you’re interested in God’s Law and Order, check it out – I just officially launched today. A Message for the Messenger will still be in operation, but I branched out to my new blog as well. I can’t wait to see you there!

New Year’s Challenge

It appears to be a Christian’s New Year’s ambition to read the Bible through-and-through every new year. That’s great, I make that ambition too, and fail most years. But I thought of one that y’all might enjoy doing as well. I’m doing NCFCA (view website here) speech club, and a part of their apologetics course is to create one or two (or seven) index cards for each ‘topic’. The topics categorize different questions that we might be asked, for example, one topic might be anything about Jesus’ incarnation, another one about His resurrection, and so forth. So I was wondering if y’all wanted to do something like that, but online. I can pose a question, and y’all can submit an answer within a good amount of time; say, a week or so. You can either do an audio recording, or you can do a written response, but I at least want a two-minute (if audio) answer, and a similar reading time (for you) if written. If you want to participate in this activity, comment below and leave your email in the comment. If there is addition text in the comment besides your email, I will leave that, but I want to make it clear that your email will not be published online by me, or given to anybody else. All comments on my blog have to go through moderation by me first, so I will copy your email and then delete it permanently from my blog.
So join me if you will, I’d love to cover these questions with y’all. This is a really great way to get you thinking, researching, and answering questions you might not give much thought to normally. I’d also love to hear some of y’all’s New Year’s’ resolutions!

Bad Things Part I

So many non-believers, and some believers even, ask the question – why do bad things happen to good people? You might have heard the answer, you might not have. I don’t know. But I will tell you why bad things happen to good people.

It starts in Genesis, chapter 3, verses 1-6, and continues in verses 16-19: “Now the serpent was craftier than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’ The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ‘You will not certainly die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it…To the woman, He said, ‘I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you’. To Adam, he said, ‘Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, You must not eat from it, cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.’”

Here, if we examine this segment of Scripture, we will notice 3 key points in this passage: 1. He gives us free will, 2. He warns us, and 3. He corrects us. I have titled my three key points: The Free will, The Warning, and The Rebuking.

The Free Will
From the very beginning, God gave mankind a free will – that is, a free control over their entire lives. They can do whatever they want (with human restrictions, of course). But also, with that free will, came the ability to choose evil, and the ability to choose good. As it seems to be in this world, good makes no effort to look appealing, while sin appears to be glamorous and fun. It is a natural human reaction to want to go for the bigger, the better, the more fun (funner’s not a word), and the overall best-looking item you can receive. Why take the five-dollar gift when you could have the two-hundred-dollar one?
It is our natural human flesh to want to go the evil route. Is that any excuse? Not in the least. Here is a quote I found last week: “If God understands my humanity and sin nature better than I do, why does He still hold me accountable for what I cannot help doing?” (~Anonymous)
There is a big flaw in this statement above – you should see it. It is that wording on the end – what I cannot help doing.
Part of the thing that people like about the idea of free will the most is the ability to be free of control and authoritative powers. But part of free will is making choices. It’s not that we’re predestined to go the sinful route, as Anonymous is suggesting in the above quote. We made the choice for which God is holding us accountable. We could’ve chosen His route, but we didn’t. Why? Because the sin looked better!
Sin is like a curved road. You can’t see what lies around the corner, but the part you can see is all flowers and butterflies. It looks nice, relaxing, and maybe even fun to some people.
But around that corner is the future, in my analogy. Your ‘fun’ and ‘better’ stuff has long-lasting effects that may not set in until later! You may not realize that there are quicksand pits around the corner, but there are! No matter what kind of sin it is, if you choose the path of sin, there will be consequences sometime down the road – whether here on earth, or given to you by God Himself.
So does God just let us go down the road without knowing what’s around the corner? No. God gives us a fair warning before we go on any kind of trip, no matter how short.

The Warning
In verse 17 of chapter 2 in Genesis, God warns Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (discussed in verse 3 in the above passage) or else he will die. Fair warning, right? God does give us fair warnings! He warns us about upcoming events.
I read a biography of a Moldavian Christian martyr named Ivan (nicknamed ‘Vanya’) who was killed on July 16th, 1972 in the Red Army. Before his martyrdom, though, he had been the chauffeur for a young Red Army officer once. They were taking a load of bread to another army camp, and had securely double-latched it in the bed of their truck, along with a padlock. Along the way, Vanya heard God telling him to slow down. He was traveling at 37 mph and paid no attention to God’s warning. Again, God told him to slow down. Again, Vanya ignored him. Then, Vanya saw a piece of their bread sliding along the highway ahead of the truck. He stopped the truck and got out to see half of their bread load scattered back behind them on the highway. As they were picking it up, more vehicles passed them, including a black Ikarus bus. It took them about an hour to clean up all of their bread. When they got back on the road, they came to a large wreck, in which the black Ikarus bus had crashed into a construction crane, and there was a large pileup of cars with several casualties.

Luckily for us, sometimes when we ignore God’s warnings, He shows His mercy by forcing us to stop anyway. An example of this might be in Acts 16:7, in which it says: “When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.” Interesting wording, ‘not allow them to’.
Why does God warn us, if it is truly free will? One reason is to keep us safe, as in the example of Vanya and bread. He was forcing them to stop. But a lot of the time, and I will go so far as to say most of the time, God will just warn us once, and when we disobey, it’s our fault. Is this saying that He’s not a loving God? No, absolutely not. If He weren’t a loving God, then He wouldn’t warn us in the first place. But He does warn us about it. And we fail a lot of the time. It’s ok to fail, though. We are not failing life, or failing our purpose in life, we are just missing the goal of that one task. But that doesn’t mean that He just lets it slip by, either.

The Rebuking
Every time that we fail in something, we are entitled to a rebuke. Whether this rebuke comes from God, your boss, a parent, or someone else, is entirely dependant upon the situation. But no matter what, we will mess up, and we will be in need of being correction.
You can see that Adam and Eve were sternly rebuked in verses 16-19 [of chapter 3]. In fact, their rebuke was so severe that it would also influence the entire world ever after them. Women giving birth would be a painful process, working hard in the fields would be painful process, and the land would rise up against mankind pretty much. Now the only representatives of the human race have failed, and their one little failure to keep God’s one and only command ever issued them (up to that time) they missed by a long shot! How could they fall for a mere fruit?
Remember what the chapter said earlier, though. Verse 6: “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some an ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” The temptation presented by the serpent made her view the fruit with a new mindset, and that mindset was only: “Look at how good it looks! It would make me know everything!” She probably didn’t even know that bad things were possible. I mean, if you lived in a perfect garden and had no issues or troubles at all, wouldn’t you agree that it would be hard to imagine imperfect life with struggles and pain and hardships? According to God’s Words in verse 18, “it will produce thorns and thistles for you…”. There were no thorns, no thistles, etc. These painful nuisances came after The Fall, as God said. (Most likely there were already mosquitoes and ticks, but apparently they did something else besides their present-day purpose. I don’t know, I could be wrong.)
Punishment is sometimes severe. Adam and Eve probably thought that the curse bestowed upon mankind was only for them, until they saw their kids go through it, and their grandkids, and their great-grandkids, and their great-great-grandkids, and so on. How awful they must have felt, watching their daughter go into labor or watching their son out plowing the field, and knowing that it was because they ate the little fruit.
Adam and Eve were also outcasts. “So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.(Gen. 3:23)” Can you imagine being cast out of your home into a strange new wilderness that stretched as far as the eye could see – no matter how far you traveled? They weren’t in a nice walled garden anymore. They were in the wilderness – where vicious animals roamed, strange new insects were drawing their blood, and prickly plants were scratching their legs to ribbons. Can you imagine being sent out into a wilderness, all alone, your Creator upset with you, and not knowing where to go. Oh, and don’t forget the cherubim with the flaming sword that kicked them out of the garden – officially. How could they put up with such stress and heartache? After all, that was the first time for them to feel it!

So, to conclude, I want to answer my original question – why do bad things happen to good people? I explained the origin of bad things and sin. And Adam and Eve really were good people, even though people often look down at them. There’s a biblical example right there of bad things happening to good people. But remember – and this is the answer to the question – we have been given the choice by free will. The choice to take God’s path or our sin nature path. The path to life or the path to death. The path to good things, or the path to bad things.
There is a bit more to talk about, but for the sake of time, I will save that for part II.