Archive for September, 2010

Marriage

Do you ever wonder if you married the right person? I don’t. It’s a nice feeling when you are constantly convinced that the person God ordained for you is sharing your bed. My wife is a subscriber to this blog, so I know she’ll read it, but that’s not why I’m writing it. It’s to encourage any of you out there that may be having doubts, or even those who are single and wondering who their spouse will be. If you seek God, He will give you the right answer all of the time. Every time I pray for my wife, God assures me that she is who He created for me, from the beginning of time. Don’t think for a second that He can’t and won’t do the same for you.

We Are His Body

I mentioned that from time to time I might share something interesting in my study of Ephesians. While I got a bit behind, I recently became sort of re-dedicated to having a morning quiet time, and using this time to continue in Ephesians. This morning I finished chapter 1, and something in these verses really stuck out to me. Let me see if I can re-create what I wrote in my notebook from this morning for you here.

Ephesians 1:22-23
“And God placed all things under His feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way.”

While these verses speak largely about Christ’s authority as head of the church (which is consistent with the book of Hebrews, which refers to Christ as the High Priest of the church), it was a phrase right in the middle that got the wheels turning: “which is His body.”

As my mind traipsed through anatomical images and songs about this (“If We Are the Body” by Casting Crowns is what I’m referring to here; I’ve posted a video with this song below), it ended up on the Lord’s Supper. This is a notably relevant subject for me right now; this week in our Spiritual Boot Camp at church the pastor is preaching on the spiritual discipline of fasting. But Jesus broke the bread and said, “Take and eat; this is my body.” (Matthew 26:26) But the verse in Ephesians says that the church is also His body. So in a sense, the bread also symbolizes the role of the church. It pointed me to the other part of the Lord’s Supper, which I’ll hit on as part of my conclusion.

I felt like God was impressing on me an understanding here about His character, and what I was surprised to reach as my conclusion is how personal each aspect of the Trinity is in regards to the church. We often think of the church as Christ’s; after all, Jesus referred to it as His in his charge to Peter (Matthew 16:18). But if you think about what it takes to make a body worth anything but a lifeless lump of immovable mass, there are several pieces, and each part of the Trinity uniquely provides for these:

1) The Father formed the body at creation and provides sustenance (physically and through His Word).
2) The Spirit indwells the body and provides direction (by way of sanctification and spiritual growth).
3) Jesus the Son gives the body His blood and provides the means of life (eternally and salvationally).

So the body is a great picture of how personal and involved our God is within our lives individually, and also within His church as a whole. How can we do anything but act on this understanding through worship and sharing these things with others. I hope this blog encourages you as much as coming to this realization encouraged me. Let’s take great joy in being part of God’s body, and hopefully in doing so we will move forward even more boldly in our faith. I pray that God blesses each and every reader of this post as they read it. Amen!

Anger=Love? The God of the Old and New Testament

Scanning through some more blogs, I came upon this blog post, which I thought was very well written. It got the mind ticking, and I wrote a rather lengthy response to it in the comment section, which I’ve reposted here. For those who have no interest in or not enough time to read the blog post, the topic was how to reconcile the God of the Old Testament with the God of the New Testament, for the OT God seems at times very much like an angry, violent and intolerant God, while Jesus is soft-spoken, meek, humble and loving. Below is my response. Any additional insight others might be willing to lend would be fantastic–even those non-believers who occasionally peruse my blog.

What a great post, as it hits on one of what I believe to be the two main theological issues Christians are faced with in this post-modern world (the other being the problem of suffering).

My wife and I are reading through the Bible this year, and as such we just finished Jeremiah a few weeks ago (never realized that the first 9 months of my year would be devoted to the OT; lot of stuff in there to cover!). You’re right; there does seem to be a lot of raging against nations that isn’t seen in the NT. It is enough to make one question, “why the difference?”

Luckily for me, our church also just went through the book of Hebrews. I’m sure you’re quite familiar with the establishment of the context between the Old Covenant and New Covenant. But to me this provides a reasonable explanation for the different responses of God in the OT versus the NT. Our pastor taught (and maybe you agree with this, maybe not) that the purpose of the Old Covenant was to demonstrate to people that they are inherently sinful and deserve punishment for that sin as a result. That’s why the establishment of the law was necessary–to show man that there are objective moral values, and that God is firmly on the right side of them and must respond justly to any actions that fall on the wrong side of them, in accordance with His nature. The New Covenant is to demonstrate to people how to live in light of that sin and to recognize that there is a means of salvation from this punishment. Naturally, salvation sounds plenty better than punishment, so God of the NT sounds a lot better than the God of the OT.

I don’t think the God of the OT went away though; He couldn’t have, otherwise He would not have the characteristic of immutability. One has to wonder if God rages against nations today; I would submit that it’s probable–it’s just that all nations reject Him to some degree, so it doesn’t seem targeted to any one country (i.e. Pakistan doesn’t get hit with more natural disasters than the U.S., let’s say) by our post-modern standards.

The problem that most people shaken by the God of the OT (and this includes both believers and non-believers) is rooted in a mis-understanding that God must be only loving all the time. The nature of God essentially mandates Him to constant righteous anger against sin. This still happens even today. It’s the salvation that exempts us from the execution of this anger that makes it not only a loving gift, but a precious one also.

So the OT to me provides excellent context for the NT, as it shows the reader what God’s nature is bound to, and it emphasizes how loving of a God He is in providing a way to be fit for heaven in spite of our unworthiness and undeservedness. Those who feel like the God of the OT is “capricious, spiteful, hate-filled and war-mongering” also carry with them a certain sense of pride, like God owes them an explanation. I don’t know if that necessarily applies to the person you spoke with, as this person seems more curious than proud. But when we realize that God must act this way to be consistent with His nature and that we are owed NOTHING by Him, it makes a lot more sense and is a lot more understandable.

The Two Witnesses

I was reading one of my study books (Four Pillars of a Man’s Heart by Stu Weber) and it was talking about how God promises restoration for us. Weber quotes this verse in talking about it: “See I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.” Malachi 4:5-6, NIV

While this verse flows well with the concept Weber is discussing in his book (on the Faithful Friend pillar, if you are curious), it got me thinking about something else. Verse 5 clearly states that God planned to send Elijah back to earth before the “great and dreadful day of the Lord.” That got me thinking about a possible representation of Elijah in the Bible. Where, you might ask? Let me tell you. 🙂

Revelation 11 talks about how God will send two witnesses during the Tribulation to preach for 1,260 days (aka 3 1/2 years) before the beast that comes from the abyss kills them, they lie dead for 3 1/2 days, then will be resurrected and called up to heaven in a cloud by God. There has been a lot of speculation as to who these two witnesses will be. In the Left Behind series, the two witnesses are called Eli and Moishe, a fictional suggestion that perhaps it will be Elijah and Moses who will return to bear witness for the Lord. There is certainly some support for this view; these two were there at the time of Jesus’ transfiguration (Luke 9:30-31), and a cloud came and enveloped them to bring them back into heaven. This would also fit with the verse from Malachi quoted above. So this is entirely possible.

But then I got to thinking about Hebrews 9:27, which says, “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that face judgment…” Moses already died once, so is it possible that he will die again in fulfillment of Revelation 11? Perhaps, as there is evidence that Lazarus died twice, and Jairus’ daughter may also have died twice. But Elijah never died (2 Kings 2:11-12), so if he is one of the two in Revelation 11 to fulfill the prophecy in Malachi 4, wouldn’t it make more sense that God would send another man who had also never died to endure the same first death and completely validate Hebrews 9:27?

Luckily, there is just such a man, and this is why I find God amazing. If He is sending two witnesses to testify about Him, then be murdered but still live and be called back into heaven, then it is amazing that He allowed two men to never taste death in all of recorded human history (note: there might be some question about Melchizedek, but as there is no definitive record of his birth or death, we’ll stick with the “two men” claim as most accurate). One was Elijah, and we’ve already discussed him. The other is discussed in Genesis 5:21-24, and his freedom from death is verified in Hebrews 11:5. This man is Enoch, father of the last man to die before the Flood and seen as one who “pleased God.” This guy sure seems like he would be a good candidate to return and testify about God’s goodness, and also would help in the fulfillment of Hebrews 9:27. For with the death of these two men, every person in recorded human history would have experienced death, even God personified through Jesus Christ.

So are the two witnesses in Revelation 11 Elijah and Enoch? I’m honest enough to say that I don’t know. It would have been much easier if God had just put their names down, but it is a mystery that is interesting enough to keep it a mystery. However, God has put the possible pieces on the game board for this to be the case, so wherever I am viewing the Tribulation from, either in heaven or on earth, I will be very excited to see just who these men are that are the answer to prophecy!