Sunday, December 9, 2012

1 John 2:18-22

1 John 2:18-22
Little children, it is the last time. And just as you have heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have risen up, from which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they were of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out so that it might be revealed that they were not all of us. But you have an anointing of the Holy One, and you know all things. I have written unto you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and know that no lie is of the truth. Who is a liar but he who denies Jesus is the Christ? He who denies the Father and the Son is the antichrist.”

Here in John’s epistles we do not see so much of a description of apostasy but the confirmation of apostates in the first epistle and how to deal with them in the second epistle.

All apostates deny the truth while trying to convince others they can do what Christ did or preserve what He did. This is what makes them apostate. It is also how we know we are in the last days. There are many apostates in the Church today who deny Christ. But, then again, since the end of the first century, there have always been those who deny Christ but not His name.

When the nineteenth verse states: ‘they went out from us, but they were not of us...’ it is not referring to the local church, nor is it referring to loss of salvation. It would be entirely inconsistent for it to refer to loss of salvation as so many verses throughout scripture make it plain that one who is truly saved can not lose their salvation regardless of what they do or others may say. Likewise, it would also render the text nonsensical if the apostle were stating that these apostates had departed from the local church, although it is likely true they had. The apostle John was referring to the greater picture, that they had departed from the doctrines that are essential to salvation, they were no longer identifying themselves with the risen Savior. If they had been truly saved John reasons, they would have remained in the faith, holding to a conservative viewpoint on areas such as sin, repentance, faith and forgiveness. If they had held to a conservative, traditional view on these and other crucial areas, they would have remained, perhaps not at the fellowship of saints to where John was writing, but they would have remained in the sphere of general fellowship that all believers have. It was convenient for the believers in fact, for the departure of the apostates made it easy to identify who was truly saved.

Now, after reading verse twenty in the KJV, I was curious to know what the word ‘unction’ means. It sounds like “chrisma” when transliterated from the original Greek, and probably is the root for “Charisma”. It means unguent, ointment, or anything smeared on. The Levite priests had a special ointment that they would pour over their heads, so in this sense, they had an “unction”. As believer-priests, we christians also have an unction, an unction from the Spirit. This pouring on of the Spirit that all saints receive at the moment of salvation is what allows us to know all things. This is something that the apostates who depart from us do not have, they do not know all things especially things that pertain to spiritual matters.

John did not write unto them because his “children” did not know the truth, as some were disposed to believe. Rather, it was the fact that they did know the truth that he wrote unto them. No lie is of the truth he warns them. However reasonable a doctrine may sound, if it is not of the truth, it is a lie. Many unsound doctrines are formulated sincerely and earnestly by well-meaning teachers of the word. But these doctrines are not the sincere milk of the word. And so believers must be careful and discerning when reading their Bibles and should they come across a difficult passage, it is best to prayerfully meditate over it for a period of time before coming to a conclusion about what it is teaching. Even more importantly, we must be careful when we read books written by men, books that support a theology or philosophy irrespective of what school of theology the author may belong to. Theologically, I describe myself as a Dispensationalist and eschew both Calvinism and Arminianism as systems of soteriological thought. However, I still must be on my guard when reading theology books written by Dispensational authors. In the same manner, I can glean many things from both Calvinists and Arminians as long as I keep my distance from their views on the doctrines of grace. I must remind myself that no lie is of the truth. Henceforth, no theological system is entirely free (although some are more free than others or else I would not consider myself a Dispy) of producing unsound, untruthful doctrines that can harm the body of Christ.

John asks the rhetorical question “Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?” It is meant to make his readers think for a moment about who could be more of a liar than one who denies Jesus as Christ. That’s right, no one is more of a liar than the one who denies the Lord. He who denies Christ is an antichrist, one who assails the Lord while professing His kinship. He does not only deny the Lord, but he denies God the Father who sent Him also.

Friday, November 16, 2012

2 Peter 3:1-9

2 Peter 3:1-9
“This second epistle, beloved I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour: Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers walking after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.’ For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

Peter now takes the occasion to remind his readers of the words of Old Testament prophets, especially of the second coming of the Lord. He reminds them of what the prophets from aforetime spoke of concerning the Lord’s coming because of many scoffers that had arisen at this point in the history of the Church. These scoffers walk after their own lusts, then even as they do in this generation. 

They have forgotten the promise Christ gave to his disciples at the Last Supper where he said to them: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would not have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:1-3) They reason among themselves nothing has changed, since the time of creation, “all [natural] things continue”. Because they are led about by their lusts, they soon rationalize that if the Lord is slack on His promise to return, then they may as well live as lasciviously as they please. 

Peter uses the great flood of Genesis 7 as an example to show that God judges on His clock, not ours. It was by the power of God speaking that the earth was destroyed so long ago. It is by this same power that the earth is reserved and “kept in store” until the day of judgment which will come not by water but by fire. 

Men of old were ignorant of this fact, as Peter says. I believe it was not the flood itself that they were ignorant of, but their ignorance was in the fact that it was entirely by God’s mouth, that determined whether judgment came or not. Peter cannot stop men from being ignorant of that truth, but he was inspired to write and tell his readers not to be ignorant of another fact: that one day with the Lord is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day. 

What does this mean? Why is it important? That statement, a thousand years being like one day and vice versa, shows forth the eternal nature of God. For God, a thousand days might as well be a million years. But on the other hand, if you are a believer who like myself, considers the earth to be no more than six thousand years old, then God we could just as easily say that the past six thousand years of human history have been less than a week for God. So it is easy for God to be long suffering, and He is– especially to His most beloved creation.

Long suffering is one of the characteristics of agape love (1 Cor. 13:4). Let us remember this when faced with those who scoff at the Lord’s return and examine ourselves to see if we are prepared for His coming. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

2 Peter 2:15-22

2 Peter 2:15-22
“Forsaking the right way, they went astray, having followed the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the hire of wrong-doing; But he was rebuked for his own transgression: a dumb ass spake with man’s voice and stayed the madness of the prophet. These are springs without water, and mists driven by a storm; for whom the blackness of darkness hath been reserved. For, uttering great swelling words of vanity, they entice in the lusts of the flesh, by lasciviousness, those who are just escaping from them that live in error; Promising them liberty, while they themselves are bondservants of corruption; For whom a man is overcome, of the same is he also brought into bondage. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein and overcome, the last state is become worse than the first. For it were better for them to not known the way of righteousness, than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandment delivered unto them. It has happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog turning to his own vomit again, and the sow that had washed to wallowing in the mire.”(ASV)

The false teachers that were mentioned back in the beginning of the chapter are shown in these last verses that they knew the true way of salvation, but never accepted it because they saw monetary profit in leading God’s people astray. They would be less likely to lead anyone astray if they believed and accepted the offer of salvation as the people they deceived had. 

They have followed the path of Balaam, who so desired to sell out Israel with his prophecies. The story of Balaam and the Moabite king Balak is found in Numbers 22-24. In the account, Balak seeks out Balaam, a hireling prophet to curse Israel. Balaam makes it clear on more than one occasion with Balak that he could not go beyond the word of God. Numbers 22:1-22 show Balaam’s character and where his heart truly was. The Lord instructed Balaam to go with the men of Balak only if they invited him a second time to come with them. They did not, and Balaam saddled his ass and went with them nevertheless. 

False prophets, in the manner of Balaam, come to realize that they cannot separate Christ from His people. They know they can however, separate His people from Him. And so with extravagant words devoid of any truth, they entice the flesh with what it longs after. 

Peter uses three references three things in describing false teachers: wells or springs, clouds, and mist or fog. In scripture, wells are often a picture of a source of spiritual truth. They are  Proverbs 16:22 states: “Understanding is a wellspring of life...”. Proverbs 18:4 says: “The words of a man’s mouth are as deep waters, and the wellspring of wisdom as a flowing brook.” There are many other verses found in the Bible that pertain to wells with spiritual truth connected to it. Wells that provide no water would be deceptive towards anyone who thirsts. It is just the same spiritually as it is physically. False prophets present themselves as having refreshing words of wisdom for earnest students of God’s word. But in reality, they give no satisfaction.

They are also clouds carried by a tempest. Clouds usually indicate rain, and rain usually symbolizes blessing in scripture. But tempests, or storms are not generally symbols of blessing. In the OT it is generally associated with visitations by God upon the wicked (Psa. 11:6; Psa. 83:15; Isa. 29:6). In the NT, the word for tempest in 2 Peter 2:17– transliterated lailaps– is found only in two other places. Mark 4:37 and Luke 8:23 give the same account of the Lord calming the sea while He and His disciples are crossing the sea of Galilee when a might storm comes upon them. His disciples fearing death, wake the Lord. The Lord rebuked the wind and calmed the sea to be still, and the positive results were immediate. 

When false teachers come into your assembly or Bible study seeking to cause division and lead some astray, this passage in 2 Peter is a good one to remember about their character and intention. Another good passage with similar use of words is in Jude 12-13. Together, the passages show that false teachers only appear to bring blessing but really bring discord. Then, remember the account of Christ calming the sea in Mark or Luke’s gospel. Christ has the power to rebuke these tempests that come our way. We shall not fear when we gather together, for wherever two or three are gathered together in the name of Christ, He will be there also. And if He is there, then we can take courage in knowing that our Lord has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, and love and of sound mind.(2 Tim. 2:1:7).

The judgment for false teachers is spelled out in the final clause of verse 17: “the mist of darkness is reserved forever.”(emphasis mine) These false prophets who have gone in the way of Balaam may ask as he did to die the death of righteousness. But it will not be granted unto them. 

Peter gives a description of what manner in which they speak that causes so many believers to be led astray. There were many heretical sects when this epistle was written, and Peter’s audience would have come in contact with a great number of teachers of these sects. There were the Cerinthians, Nicolaitans, and the Gnostics, just to name a few of the groups that produced apostate teachers. Verses 18-19 could easily be applied to those three heretical sects as well as many others. Each of those groups were known for advocating sinfulness in its followers. They were also known for having teachers who were great orators. 

The false teachers of these sects offered liberty apart from Christ, that one can claim Christ as Savior, even Lord, but continue in a life of sin. While these groups do not exist today, many popular groups today have adopted the teachings and practices. The Emergent/Emerging Church, the Charismatic movement and others advocate a lax attitude towards sin and unbelief in the name of tolerance. 

The great danger in promising liberty to sin to believers is that they suffer a loss of reward, but Peter directs the warning towards unbelievers who have not experienced salvation. If a professing believer who is not a true believer receives and accepts the teaching from a false teacher that there is liberty to sin while keeping a relationship with Christ, their end will be worse than when they first professed faith in Christ. For a true believer to be convinced that they can practice sin and have a license to do so as a result of their standing with God is sad enough. At least they are truly saved, they may lose out on rewards and a fellowship with Christ for a temporal amount of time. 

The second chapter concludes with Peter citing a part of a “true proverb”. The verse in its entirety reads from Proverbs 26:11: “As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.” This verse brings to mind the familiar story of Moses and Pharoah. Most of us probably know the account from our youth. Moses is sent by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Pharoah withstands Moses, thereby withstanding God. In the eighth chapter of Exodus however, we read that Pharoah appeared to have a change of heart for here in Ex. 8:8 says: “Then Pharoah called for Moses and Aaron, and said, Intreat the LORD, that He may take away the frogs from me, and from my people; And I will let the people go, that they may do sacrifice unto the LORD.” So it sounds like he repented, he was going to submit to the Lord. The verses that follow reveal that Moses and Aaron went unto the Lord and cried out to Him over the matter. The Lord did according to the word of Moses and the plague of frogs was stayed. Now here’s the kicker: “But when Pharoah saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.” (vv.15)

Pharoah, like a dog in the very true and applicable proverb quoted by Peter, returned to his folly, his vomit. This verse has often been used as a pretext to prove that it is possible to lose one’s salvation. But considering the context, nothing could be further from the truth. The very beginning of the chapter starts out with Peter warning of false teachers who deny the Lord and are currently awaiting judgment. So these are not true believers who have sinned greatly and lost their salvation; That would be impossible. The subjects here are professing believers whose true colors are finally being shown. Albert Barnes writes: “These professing believers never were saved. Whatever external reformation might have occurred, their nature remained the same; When they apostasized from their outward profession, they merely acted out their nature, and showed that in fact there had been no real change.” (4) Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

2 Peter 2:10-14

2 Peter 2:10-14

“But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries. Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord. But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceiving while they feast with you; Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children:”

After Peter gives a word of comfort to those who practice righteousness, he turns to those who walk after the flesh. He assures his readers that they will receive payment for their unrighteous deeds. Verse nine ends with Peter saying that God knows how to reserve the unjust for judgement and many translations, the KJV for example, punctuate the end of the verse with a colon. One of the correct ways to use the colon in the English written language is between independent clauses when the second clause explains or summarizes the first. This appears to be what Peter was doing with verses 10 through 14 in relation to verse 9. 

These five verses summarize and explain who the unjust are that are that God reserves to the day of judgement. They are morally contaminated, despising the dominion that God has placed over them. This could apply to political government, and church government such as the shepherds of the local flock, but probably, it refers to the government of Christ. If one walks after the flesh as Peter says, then they would not take joy in the Lordship of Christ. They are very presumptuous, or daring, in their actions. The word for presumptuous is transliterated as tolmetes, and is very similar in meaning to the Greek word which is transliterated as tolmao. Tolmao appears in a passage I went over in Jude 1:9. Tolmao appears in that verse as the word ‘durst’ where we read: “Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said the Lord rebuke thee.”(emphasis mine) Michael was not presumptuous, he was not daring as some brothers and sisters in Christ count these things as qualities to strive towards. They are self-willed, in Greek, the base of the word is hedone, which is where we get the word ‘hedonism’. 

The dignities that these false teachers speak evil of probably refers to the majesty of Christ’s dignity. The way the word that is translated for ‘dignities’ occurs over 170 times in the new testament, 147 times as the word ‘glory’. Of course, if anyone despises the dignity and glory of Christ, then they would surely despise the varied types of authority placed in our lives be it in the home, or in the workplace, or in the assembly, or in the Oval Office. False teachers have a way hating authority of any kind. Westboro Baptist Church of Kansas for example, has spoken out vehemently against the U.S. government– to the point of preaching no gospel at all. This author freely admits that the U.S. government is not perfect; like all governments founded and run by fallen men, ours is imperfect and even corrupt. But as 1 Timothy 2:1-2 says: “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” We should not despise or protest against those who have authority over us but pray for our leaders. Instead of protesting at funerals of soldiers fallen in the line of duty, we should see this as an opportunity to pray for the families and preach the gospel. 

The eleventh verse refers to something that I spoke of in a recent paragraph: the angels who are not so presumptuous as to bring accusation against them before the Lord. This verse also points out that angels are greater in power and might, and yet, they bring no accusation against false teachers when most people would. 

Their demise speaks of them as wild animals, born for corruption and to perish. Their lifestyle shall be for them a means to a destructive end. God is no man’s debtor as the thirteenth verse points out. They who walk after uncleanness shall surely be rewarded for their acts. Their acts are known to all as they consider it a delight to indulge in their lusts in broad daylight. When an assembly has one of these kinds of professing believers in their midst, it puts a blemish on the whole flock. This shows a powerful example of what happens when discipline is neglected. Many elders have said that exercising discipline on a member of an assembly is the hardest part of their work as under-shepherds.

The apostate can not look on something or someone without lusting after it. Like the people that lived in Noah’s day, they can never stop sinning. They are quite good at enticing unstable souls. It is important for a believer then, to be stable, or steadfast, so they are not allured into sinful living. What should a believer be stable in? They should be stable in the word of God. Many believers are stable in performing good works and evangelism to the extent that they have no time for time in the word. It is not wrong for christians to be steadfast in evangelistic efforts and doing good. Our walk before the Lord if it is in love, is a sweet smelling savour to Christ. But if we are not studying the word, our feet are not on stable land. We can get enticed to engage in lascivious, questionable living. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

2 Peter 2:4-9

2 Peter 2:4-9
"For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; And spared not the old world but saved Noah, the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing the flood upon the world of the ungodly; And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; and delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked; (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:"

In the last post, I mentioned a false teacher in the Church today with a very popular book that promotes a denial of eternal punishment. Rob Bell denies the eternality of hell in his latest book, "Love Wins", while also proclaiming a universalist gospel. His message of "good news" is that eventually everyone will be accepted into heaven even if they do not repent of their sin. My last post inluded the impending judgment of these false prophets who deny the Lord Jesus Christ. Their judgment and damnation will not tarry long, but it will last for eternity. There are many false prophets in the vein of Bell who deny the existence of hell altogether, so they don't see any form of judgment in their future. 2 Peter 2:4-9 shows how these false prophets are in serious error and if in error, then trouble as well. 

God did not spare the angels from judgment for their lies and contempt, and He did not spare the old world for their wicked imagination but brought a flood of judgment upon them for their imagination which never ceased to conjure up wicked ideas. Nor did God spare Sodom and Gomorrah, but made an example out of them, to anyone desiring to live offensively towards God.
But in both the example of the judgment of the antediluvian world and the cities Sodom and Gomorrah, there were righteous men who found grace and mercy in the sight of the Lord. The apostle here is pointing out the great truth that the Lord knows just how to deliver the godly and save the righteous out of temptation. 

For the antediluvian world God spared Noah, who for one hundred and twenty years preached the good news that there was room in the Ark for anyone who repented of their sin and came to God seeking forgiveness. 

The same treatment was given for Lot who Peter graciously describes as godly. The story of Lot’s life is characterized by worldliness and yet he was preserved from judgment. As a result of yielding to his carnal nature, Lot’s righteous soul was vexed daily in sight and sound of the perverse acts of his neighbors the dwellers of Sodom and Gomorrah. For many christians today rather than seperating from the world like Abraham, they set their eyes on the plain of the world and it reminds them of their own sinful past. 

The abiding principle that the apostle is presenting here in the ninth verse is that the Lord knows and will reserve the godly out of judgment while at the same time reserving the unjust for judgment. The rapture of the Church is the primary doctrine taught today among those who believe that the Lord will deliver His heavenly people out of the path of judgment as He did with Noah, Lot, and countless others. 

There is, I believe, a practical, temporal application to this passage as well. If the Lord knows how to deliver the just out of temptation, why should that not include earthly trials as well as the wrath of the Lamb? For 1 Corinthians 10:13 says: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; But will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” Now, the Greek word for “temptation” in both 2 Peter 2:9 as well as 1 Corinthians 10:13 are the same. So when Paul was writing this letter to the Corinthians, he wanted them to know that first, the temptations they were experiencing were common and secondly, God would be faithful to not allow them to suffer more than they had the strength to. On the contrary, He will provide a way of escape for those in temptation. The major difference in the two verses is that Paul was talking about something earthly, temporal and Peter was referring to the final judgment that would envelope all inhabitants of the world who call not Christ their Savior. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Issues in Dispensationalism and Covenant/Reformed theology continued

Millenial and Eschatological views
When it comes to any verse pertaining to prophecy, Reformed and Dispensational christians are split on the issue. Reformed scholars tend to be either Amillenial or Postmillenial, while Dispensationalists are unequivocally Premillenial. This is no mere difference of opinion. It affects a believer's involvement in politics, missions, and also outlook for the future. An amillenialist or postmillenialist believes that it is their job to usher in the Kingdom of Heaven. In order to do this, they must make the world look as much like it will when Messiah comes to establish His kingdom. This includes many social outreach programs such as feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, and caring for the enviroment. While each of these things are nice in and of themselves, they do not save souls. For the Premillenialist, especially the one who believes in an imminent rapture, sharing the gospel with the destitute along with a meal and clothing to show them the love of Christ, is our priority. The premillenialist does not do it to usher in the Kingdom of Heaven, only the King Jesus Christ has the ability to bring down His kingdom. The premillenialist goes out preaching the gospel because Christ could come back any second-- perhaps while you are reading this sentence. 

To help the reader remember the three prevalent millenial views better, let us look at the prefixes and suffixes of each one. The suffix for each one is the same: "-millenial". This comes from the latin word "mille" which means thousand and is used in other words such as millisecond, millimeter, millipede, etc. The prefix "a" means "without, lacking". So an amillenialist is someone who believes that there is no literal, earthly millenium. The prefix "post" means "after, later" and is where we get terms such as posthumous, or in sports, "post-game coverage". Postmillenialists believe that there is an earthly millenial reign, but that Christ will come after the millenial reign is through. The prefix is "pre" is means "before, prior" and is the reason why it is used in the term prefix to connotote that some words have an attachment to them that goes in front of the word itself. Premillenialists believe that there will be a literal, thousand-year reign of Christ on earth and that Christ must come down from heaven and establish it in order for the millenium to begin. 

Amillenialists and Postmillenialists while in disagreement on the literality of the millenium hold vital thing in common: they both either blur the line that seperates Israel and the Church, or they deny that such ever existed. It is of utmost importance to recognize the distinction of Israel and the Church that if one does not, then they could not possibly be a premillenialist. The reason why is because the millenium is a time for Israel, not the Church. The Church will reign at Christ's side yes, but they will reign in Jerusalem which will be the seat of Christ's earthly empire in the millenium (Isaiah 24:23; Joel 3:16,17). The millenium will bring in the complete fulfillment of the Abrahamic, Palestinian, Davidic and New covenants as they relate to Israel, its chief benefactor. If a believer sees no distinction between Israel and the Church, then the above covenants would be fulfilled in the Church which Covenant theologians see as one with Israel. 

Some of the teachings of amillenialism is that any verse referring to the earthly reign of Christ refers to this present age. The belief is that in this present age Christ is ruling from Heaven through His Church on earth. Verses in Revelation that refer to Satan being bound and thrown in the Abyss, the bottomless pit, are spiritualized to mean that at Calvary Christ's vicarious sacrifice caused Satan to be imprisoned. If Satan is bound in this present age through Christ's sacrifice, why did Peter warn in his first epistle that "your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour." (1Peter 5:8)? As one pastor comically put it, "if Satan is bound and imprisoned today, then he certainly has a long leash." What is meant by this is that Satan's influence today is apparent and widespread. So widespread in fact, that in 2 Corinthians 4:4 he is called the "god of this age", and Ephesians 2:2 calls Satan "the prince of the power of the air". A prince has a certain degree of authority; If a prince be bound, they have no power. The belief that Christ's kingdom is today and that He is ruling it from Heaven through His Church is where we get the false teaching that the Church is the Kingdom and also what is called Dominion Theology. 

The other view that stands in contrast to Dispensational premillenialism is postmillenialism. Unlike amillenialism, postmillenialists do believe in a literal thousand-year reign of Christ, but they believe that He will not return until after the millenium is finished. Many postmillenialists also believe in Dominion Theology and reject the belief of the rapture in favor of the Church enduring the Tribulation. According to postmillenialism, Jesus will return in His glorious Second Coming at the very end of this present earth's history after the Theocratic Kingdom (i.e. the Millenium) has been restored to earth through human effort. This teaching makes up the bulk of what Dominion Theology is; It is Postmillenial in nature and outlook. 

The premillenial view is not a novel view. Early Church fathers such as Justin the Martyr, Ireneaus, Polycarp, Tertullian, et. al held a premillenial view. It was not until sometime in the 3rd-century that the theologian Origen developed a new system of theology called Alexandrian theology. Greek philosophy, especially the gnostic Greek philosophy such as Neo-Platonism, played an important part in Alexandrian theology. Much of Greek philosophy advocated that anything which is physical or material is inherently evil, and only the totally spiritual is good. Through this influence the Alexandrian scholars developed the idea that an earthly, political Kingdom would be an evil thing, and that only a spiritual, nonphysical Kingdom would be good. This idea prompted Alexandrian theology to reject premillenialism and its physical, political precepts in favor of amillenialism.6

Along the lines of Premillenialism, another distinguishing feature of Dispensationalism that stands in contrast with Reformed eschatology is the teaching of the Rapture followed by a 7-year period called the Tribulation. The term "rapture" is not found anywhere in scripture as it is Latin in origin. The Greek version is "harpazo", meaning "to snatch out of the way" and appears in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 which reads: "Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." The phrase "caught up" translates as "harpazo" in the Greek, which in turn translates into "raptura" in Latin where we get the term "rapture" today. Now it should be noted in the Dispensational camp there is some disagreement about the timing and/or extent of the Rapture. Some postulate that the Rapture will occur after the Tribulation but before the Second Coming of Christ and the installment of the Millenium. Adherents to this theory are called Post-Tribulationists. Another view is that the Rapture will take place sometime in the middle of the Tribulation, and those who hold to this view are called Mid-Tribulationists. A lesser held view is the Partial Rapture, the belief that when Christ comes for His Church, He will only take the faithful, devoted ones leaving the carnal, immature believers on earth to face the Tribulation. The view that is held by this author as well as the majority of believers that identify with Dispensationalism is known as the Pre-Tribulation Rapture view.

In order to understand the nature of the Rapture and thus, have an understanding of when it shall occur, and to whom, one needs to understand the nature of the Tribulation and the subjects of it. The Tribulation is referred to in the Old Testament in Jeremiah 30:7 as "the time of Jacob's trouble", a reference to Israel. Daniel 12:1-2 makes reference to the Tribulation calling it "a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time". Revelation 3:10-- often cited as a verse which gives strong support for a Pre-Trib Rapture-- states: "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." From these references and others, we can deduce who the subjects of the Tribulation are and other important details. According to Jeremiah 30:7, Israel is a main subject of the Tribulation. This passage and the one in Daniel show that the primary purpose of the Tribulation is to prepare Israel for her Messiah. God's purpose for Israel in the Tribulation is to bring about the conversion of a multitude of Jews, who will enter into the blessings of the kingdom and experience the fulfillment of all of Israel's covenants. And according to Revelation 3:10, the second main purpose of the Tribulation is to pour out judgment on unbelieving man and nations. The verse in its entirety reads : "Because you have kept the word of my patience, I also will keep you from the hour of temptation which will come upon the habitable world, to try those who dwell on the earth." (MKJV) By studying these significant passages that deal with this period of time known simply as the Tribulation, we can understand more fully its purpose and scope. 

Because the scope of the Tribulation is clearly towards Israel and the nations, one has to recognize that there is a distinction between Israel and the Church in order to accept the doctrine of the Rapture. One cannot hold to Covenant Theology and believe that the Church is going to be taken in the twinkle of an eye. The Rapture is for the Church and it is our hope that our Lord Jesus Christ will return someday in His physical Person for His Bride. It is not a mere escape plan the christians invented as Reformed theologians charge; It is our hope that we will see our Savior face to face as He picks us up to take us to His Father's mansion. It is a Heavenly blessing for a Heavenly people, whereas Israel is God's earthly people and God has not by any means cast Israel off (Rom. 11:1-5). Israel must endure a time of affliction to be brought to their knees in repentance. The Church (the true Church that is), on the other hand is made up of those who have put their faith in Christ for forgiveness of sins. They accept Christ's payment He made on their behalf at Calvary. For believers who make up the true Church, judgment has passed over them.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

mostly spiritual musings: Dispensationalism and Covenant/Reformed Theology

mostly spiritual musings: Dispensationalism and Covenant/Reformed Theology: (So I am suffering from a case of writer's block on having anything meaningful to say about 2 Peter or Jude. I wrote this article for a br...

Dispensationalism and Covenant/Reformed Theology

(So I am suffering from a case of writer's block on having anything meaningful to say about 2 Peter or Jude. I wrote this article for a brother at the assembly I go to, Northwest Bible Fellowship in Omaha, Nebraska)

Dispensationalism and Covenant/Reformed Theology

Theologically speaking, christians tend to fall into one of two categories: They either identify with and interpret scripture according to the Dispensational method, or according to the Reformed method. On the surface, one might not be able to tell the difference between a dispensational believer and a reformed believer. There are believers from both camps who love the Lord and have a zeal for the gospel and witnessing to others. Dispensational christians as well as Reformed ones name Christ as their Savior. So what's the difference between the two? Does it matter how you interpret the word of God? And, perhaps most importantly, can believers who adhere to one method of interpretation work alongside believers who adhere to a polar opposite method in proclaiming the gospel? The group of christians I meet with interpret scripture according to the Dispensational view, so in answering these and other questions in this article, I will be promoting Dispensational theology and its method of interpretation of scripture. 

One of the primary differences between Dispensational and Reformed theology is how scripture is to be interpreted. Dispensationalists interpret scripture in the literal sense or the more accurate term, the normal sense. Reformed theologians on the other hand, interpret scripture in the allegorical sense, spiritualizing the text. The result of a normal interpretation versus allegorical can be enormous. First, let us consider the allegorical method. Charles T. Fritsch summarizes the allegorical method thus: "According to this method the literal and historical sense of Scripture is completely ignored, and every word and event is made an allegory of some kind either to escape theological difficulties or to maintian certain peculiar religious views...".1 In regards to the creation account, the traditional Reformed view was a literal, chronological view. However, in recent years, many Reformed pastors and theologians have been interpreting even the creation account in an allegorical way. Now, this does not mean that some truth of an allegorical nature can not be gleaned from the creation account. For in that account we have Adam, a type of Christ being given a bride, Eve, a type of the Church from out of his side. From this perspective, the creation account presents a very beautiful truth about Christ and His Church. But this is only a secondary interpretation. The primary interpretation is that God put Adam into a deep sleep, and formed a woman out of his rib, and this woman would be called Eve. In order for the secondary allegorical interpretation to be true, the primary literal interpretation must be true. If the primary interpretation is not true in its literal sense, then the secondary interpretation can not be true in its allegorical sense. It is very important for all serious students of the Bible to not make an allegorical interpretation the primary interpretation unless scripture dictates otherwise. For example, the wisdom and poetry books of the Bible (Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Job) employ many similes and metaphors. These grammatical devices are allegorical by their very nature, so the primary interpretation ought to be understood in an allegorical context. Although the majority of Reformers do interpret the creation account in its proper literal context as its primary meaning, they are not consistent when it comes to their understanding of passages addressed to Israel. 

All or most Reformed theologians are in agreement about Israel and the Church in that the Church either replaced Israel ( a type of Reformed theology called replacement theology), or that the Church existed in Old Testament times as Israel. The latter view is the more common view, and as such, Reformed theologians disregard Acts 2 as being the start of the Church. Instead, they look in the OT to Genesis 15 where God establishes a covenant with Abraham as being the birth of the Church. The great danger to interpreting the word of God this way is clear: there is no way to test whether the conclusion makes sense. The authority of scripture is removed from itself and placed upon man and his often times fanciful interpretations. Take for example, the verse Isaiah 65:25: "The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD." The entire chapter of Isaiah 65 is prophetic of the Millenium yet to come. There is no reason to spiritualize the meaning or try to give this verse some mystical, meaning that is not apparent in the text. Now, consider John Wesley's interpretation of Isaiah 65:25: "The wolf, &c. - God here promises to take off the fierceness of the spirits of his peoples enemies, so that they shall live quietly and peaceably together. And dust - God promises a time of tranquility to his church under the metaphor of serpents eating the dust, their proper meat, Gen_3:14, instead of flying upon men: it signifies such a time, when wicked men shall no more eat up the people of God."2 Here, Wesley applies metaphors to the subjects of the verse, isolating the verse from the rest of scripture thus making it impossible to validate his interpretation.

Now, we will take up the literal, normal method of interpretation. David Dunlap says this of the literal method of interpretation: 
"The literal method of interpretation is often called the historical-grammatical method because it gives to words their normal meaning according to accepted grammatical rules and historical usage. It will be immediately recognized that this tends to lead to simplicity and clarity. In the grammatical sense, we read the Bible the same way as we do any other book. The literal method does not rule out the use of type, allegory, and symbol, but it does not make these the basis for interpretation."3 In other words, the literal method makes room for an allegorical interpretation, or the use of a type, shadow, or illustration, whereas the allegorical method does not make any room whatsoever for a literal method of understanding the text. Even when the literal method applies a metaphor in understanding a passage of Scripture, the meaning of the metaphor is to be taken literally. An example of this would be John 1:29 where John the Baptist cries out: "...Behold the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world." John the Baptist was not referring to an actual, literal lamb-- he was referring to Christ who, like a sacrificial lamb would literally bear the sins of the world. Finally, Scripture itself asserts the plain, normal interpretation for in 2 Peter 1:20: "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation." 

In both Reformed and Dispensational theology, there is a ultimate goal, or program, of history; A goal God from eternity past designed and planned. With both theological systems the chief end of the program is the glory of God. However, in the Reformed system, God acheives this goal only through the redemption of the elect who He sovereignly chose for salvation from before the foundation of the world ( Note: this belief is not only Reformed but also Calvinistic, which the two share a close relation and we will address that down the road). In Dispensationalism, God acheives His goal of attaining glory for Himself not only through the redemption of repentant sinners, but in many other aspects. Renald Showers writes: "Although the redemption of elect human beings is a very important part of God's purpose for history, God not only has a program for the elect but also a program for the nonelect (Rom. 9:10-23). In addition, God has different programs for nations (Job 12:23; Isa. 14:24-27; Jer. 10:7; Dan. 2:36-45), rulers (Isa. 44:28-45:7; Dan. 4:17), Satan (Jn. 12:31; Rom. 16:20; Rev. 12:7-10; 20:1-3), and nature (Mt. 19:28; Acts 3:19-21; Rom. 8:19-22). Since God has many different programs which He is operating during the course of history, all of them must be contributing something to His ultimate purpose for history. Thus, the ultimate goal of history has to be large enough to incorporate all of God's programs, not just one of them."4 Covenant theology is a branch of Reformed theology, so throughout this article the two terms will be used interchangeably. Because Covenant theology places such a large focus on the redemption of the elect, it only sees two, or at most three covenants that God made with mankind throughout history. Dispensationalism with its broader scope, sees eight covenants in all. The covenants that are given according to the Reformed tradition are: the covenant of works, the covenant of grace, and the covenant of redemption ( the covenant of redemption is the covenant that most Covenant Theologians differ on). When one follows the literal method of interpretation, these covenants do not manifest themselves so clearly which is why Dispensationalists see eight covenants, all of which can be seen when the text is interpreted clearly and plainly. 

The covenants given by Dispensationalists are as follows: 1.) The Edenic Covenant (Gen. 2:16) conditions the life of the man in innocence. 2.)The Adamic Covenant (Gen. 3:15) conditions the life of fallen man and gives promise of a Redeemer. 3.) The Noahic Covenant (Gen. 9:16) establishes the principle of human government. 4.) The Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 12:2) founds the nation of Israel and confirms, the Adamic promise of redemption. 5.) The Mosaic Covenant (Ex. 19:5) condemns all men "for all have sinned." 6.) The Palestinian Covenant (Dt. 30:3) secures the final restoration and conversion of Israel. 7.) The Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7:16) establishes the perpetuity of the Davidic family and of the Davidic Kingdom over Israel and over the whole earth, to be fulfilled in and by Christ. 8.) The New Covenant (Heb. 8:8) rests upon the sacrifice of Christ and secures the blessedness, under the Abrahamic Covenant of those who believe.5

Of these eight covenants, there are four that are hotly debated amongst Dispensationalists and Reformers. They are the Abrahamic, Palestinian, Davidic, and New Covenants-- all of which are directly and primarily related to Israel. For the Reformer, these four covenants are conditional and allegorical. The Dispensationalist on the other hand, sees them as unconditional and literal, which makes all the difference in the world. In the Abrahamic Covenant, God promised Abraham that through his seed, all the nations of the world would be blessed. Now if this promise was conditional, then we Gentiles can forget about receiving any kind of blessing because Abraham and his sons as well as the whole nation of Israel disobeyed God multiple times. If it were allegorical, then it is impossible to reconcile the fact that there are other promises God made with Abraham and his seed that literally came true. If the fulfilled promises and prophecies of scripture have come true in a literal sense, then it proceeds that the unfulfilled promises and prophecies of scripture will come true in a literal sense. 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Jude XI: Introduction to Peter's warning of apostasy

The epistle of 2 Peter is the apostle Peter's address of apostasy. We will not go through the whole epistle for practical purposes, although someday if I feel led by the Lord, I may write an exposition of the Peter's second epistle. For now though, Lord willing, we will look at 2 Peter 1:19-3:7. 

2 Peter 1:19-21
"We have a more sure word of prophecy to which ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn and the day star arises in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake under the power of the Holy Spirit."

The theme of these three verses is the reliability of the prophetic word in the holy scriptures. The King James Version of verse 19, does not do justice to the text. The reason why is thus: the prophetic word is inspired and infallible, and nothing can ever make it more dependable or trustworthy. F.W. Grant's translation of this verse may make the verse 19 easier to understand: "We have also the prophetic word confirmed, to which ye do well to take heed as to a lamp that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn and the morning star ariseth in your hearts."1 Peter goes on to give a detailed description of false teachers and apostates that will rise up in the last days, and they will deny the second coming of the Lord. 

There are several reasons why God has designed His inspired word to have "spoiler alerts" about certain events. Two of these reasons would be: 1. To show that He is faithful. and 2. To warn believers and exhort them to live according to His promises. The prophetic word in scripture would fall into two categories-- fulfilled prophecy, and unfulfilled prophecy. You can guess which events would fall into which category, so I won't waste time explaining that. In Peter's day, Christ's first coming fulfilled over 300 prophecies. Peter points out that the prophetic word confirmed, that which is unfulfilled prophecy will come to fruition. We are exhorted to take heed to this prophetic word, namely the Lord's coming for His Church, for it is a lamp that lights our path in this dark world. When Christ returns, a new day will dawn, and we shall see Him face to face. This is what the morning star would be in reference to, the rapture. In Revelation 22:16, the Lord says: "I am the root and offspring of David, and the bright and morning star."

Next, in verse 20, Peter gives one of the states one of the most fundamental principles in hermeneutics: that the interpretation of prophecy is not based on an isolated method for each individual passage. All of scripture is to be interpreted to the rest of scripture, for this is the only way to make scripture most consistent. 

The reason why no scripture is of its own interpretation is given in verse 21. No prophecy ever came by man's will, but by the eternal Spirit of God who moved holy men of God. If prophecy did come by the will of man, imagine the results! Man has a hard enough time communicating earthly messages to one another that good communication skills is considered to be a precious commodity in today's work place. Even the holiest men if not moved by God's Spirit would come to their own conclusions and we would not have such glorious gospel verses such as John 3:16, or Romans 5:6-8 because they would probably disagree as people tend to do. But the Holy Spirit, who is eternal and all-wise, brings the writing styles of both apostles, John and Paul, and brings the message of both into uniformity. 

2 Peter 2:1-3
"But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. 

Now, Peter reminds his audience that there were false prophets in Israel's past just like there were false prophets in Peter's day and there are false prophets in our day. These false prophets draw a sharp contrast between the holy men of God who were moved by the Spirit, and were true prophets. Jeremiah 14:13-15 says of the false prophets in OT times: "Then said I, ah, Lord God! Behold, the prophets say unto themm, Ye shall not see the sword, neither shall ye have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place. Then the Lord said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name. I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spoke unto them; they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart. Therefore, thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets that prophesy in my name, and I sent them not, yet they say Sword and famine shall not be in this land; By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed." The false prophets in Jeremiah's day claimed to represent God. They claimed to have a message from the Lord who they claimed sent them. Yet they spoke lies in the name of God. It is an awful thing to claim representation of the Eternal One and speak lies on behalf of Him. There lies a sense of poetic justice for those who falsely prophesy in the name of God. Christendom has many pastors who profess to speak for God today and only speak lies. Rob Bell is one such example. His latest book, "Love Wins" presents a universalist gospel that eventually, all of humanity will go to heaven. 

1. F.W. Grant's Numerical Bible cited in II Peter & Jude: The Christian and Apostasy by William Macdonald (Kansas City, KA Walterick Publishers, 1972) pg. 25  

Monday, August 20, 2012

Jude pt. X

Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.(2 Timothy 3:4-5) 

The first description in this- traitors is used two other times in scripture: once in Luke 6:16 in reference to Judas Iscariot, and once in Acts 7:52 in reference to those who betrayed and murdered the Lord Jesus. In the last days many so called believers will be like Judas Iscariot towards his fellow brethren in Christ. In these times when persecution of christians becomes more common, there will be some who out of the covetous nature of their heart will betray and give over their "fellow" believers to the authorities. I put fellow in quotations for in reality, these men described here in 2 Timothy are not our fellow brothers in Christ; They are impostors and hypocrites. 

The next word that the King James Version uses is a bit archaic-- heady. Modern translations use the word "reckless", and other translations prior to the 20th century use the term "headstrong". "Haste" is a word with a similar meaning as "heady" which appears more frequently than the latter. To be hasty, make haste, or act hastily, is not always a bad thing. Many times in both the Old and New Testaments people acted most righteously when they made haste. The psalmist of the 119th psalm wrote concerning the commandments: "I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments." Zacchaeus made haste in coming down from the sycamore tree when he met the Lord (Luke 19:6). But there are many verses--especially in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes-- that speak negatively of the man who speaks or acts in haste and behaves rashly. 

Proverbs 14:29 says: "He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding; But he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly." This seems to be in agreement with 2 Timothy 3:3 in that a men in the last days will be fierce. Proverbs 28:20 says: "A faithful man shall abound with blessings; But he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent." This verse agrees much with 2 Timothy 3:2 where the word "covetous" is used to describe man in the end times. As previously mentioned, there are some verses in Ecclesiastes that warn man not to speak rashly or to be hasty towards anger, (Ecc. 5:2, 7:9) both of which would be appropiate if only space would permit to include in this article on how man will act near the end of the age and what the inspired word of God has to say about said behavior.

Highmindedness is another word for proud, or to be puffed up. In Paul's letter to the christians at Corinth, he uses the phrase "puffed up" five times in describing that assembly. Now, imagine all of Christendom puffed up as the Corinthians were. It's really not too hard to imagine when observing the current state of Christianity. 

In the end times men shall be lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. The greek transliteration for "lovers of pleasure" is philedonos. The greek transliteration of "lovers of God" is philotheos. Men will be fond of sensual, fleshly pleasure more than being fond of God. Quite often these days, I see fellow believers showing more fondness for earthly activities such as sports and games than being fond of studying God's word with brothers and sisters in Christ, or giving thanks for what He has done. 

These men have a form of godliness; An outward semblance of piety and respect towards God. But they deny the very inward power of such godliness. While they display external fruit of a pious, God-fearing life, there is no internal reality of respect to the Creator of all things. I am reminded of 2 Corinthians 11:3-15, the well known passage which speaks of Satan transforming himself into a messenger of light. Satan can take a form of one who speaks on God's behalf, but preached a different Jesus than what is presented in the gospels. In Jeremiah 3:8-11 says: "And I saw that when for all the causes wherein backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce, yet the treacherous Judah, her sister, feared not, but went and committed fornication also. And it came to pass through the lightness of her fornication that she polluted the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks. And even for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not returned unto me with her whole heart, but with falsehood, saith Jehovah. And Jehovah said unto me, Backsliding Israel hath shewn herself more just than treacherous Judah." A professing believer who only shows a form of godliness is by principle less just than those carnal christians who know they lack reverence for God. Just as Judas Iscariot for a time appeared to be one of the most trustworthy disciples and in time would become the one who betrayed the Lord for thirty pieces of silver, many christians today some of them even more reliable than your pastor, will deal treacherously with Christ and His followers. 

If the experiences of Israel and Judah when the kingdom was split into two-- a northern kingdom and a southern kingdom-- could be considered illustrative of the current state of Christendom today with a Protestant side and a Roman Catholic/Orthodox side, then I would submit to my reader that the Protestant side is in greater sin than the RCC's. As far as professing believers go, those in the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox churches have not committed half as many sins as those who profess to believe and do not in the Protestant churches. The RCC's and Orthodox churches are quite blatant in their spiritual harlotry. But Protestants who have a false profession of faith are guilty of committing more whoredoms than that of the Roman Catholics. For it was in Protestantism that justification by faith reclaimed, but now many Protestant churches preach salvation by baptism, going to church, tithing, saying a prayer, etc.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Jude pt. IX: Paul's Description of Apostates in 2 Timothy 3:3

Without natural affection--meaning unloving, without natural love. It is used especially of the natural affection parents have for their children and children have for their parents.(1) The Greek word for "trucebreakers" like many of the other adjectives in this list contains the negative participle "a" signifying there is an absence of a certain quality or trait. In this case, trucebreakers speaks of the absence of devotion. The opposite of this word is transliterated as "spendo". Thayer's Greek Definitions gives three defines this word as: 1) to pour out as a drink offering, make a libation
2) in the NT to be offered as a libation
3) fig. used of one whose blood is poured out in a violent death for the cause of God.(2)

It is used in the NT in such verses as Philippians 2:17, and 2 Timothy 4:6. In both these passages Paul is writing of how ready he is to die for his faith. This is the meaning of the antonym for the word "trucebreakers". The fact that this word is linked with the opposite of having a willingness to die for your faith is very interesting. By having a willingness to pour his life out as an offering, Paul display the characteristics of a trucebreaker. But anyone who does not have this selfless attitude could be looked at as being a trucebreaker. These people who possess this trait cannot be persuaded to enter into a covenant. Although they may profess to be a believer in Christ, they refuse to enter into a living relationship with Him. 

After trucebreakers, comes the description false accusers. The Greek for this is the same as "slanderers" in 1 Timothy 3:11, and "devil" in John 6:70. The reference in 1 Timothy is used by Paul in giving instruction to Timothy on the conduct of the wives of church elders and deacons. In John 6:70 the Lord tells His disciples that He had chosen the twelve men and yet one of them was a devil, or false accuser. We know that Christ was referring to Judas Iscariot, and that when Iscariot sold Christ out to the Pharisees for thirty pieces of silver, he was in effect aligning himself with those false accusers, the Pharisees. 

They are also incontinent--that is, lacking self-control. As I pointed out in the previous paragraph, many of the Greek words for the adjectives Paul uses in this list have the "a" prefix giving the connotation that there is a quality missing. We can gain much information then by finding out what the word minus the "a" prefix means and how it is used throughout scripture. In the case of the description "incontinent", the Greek word is akratēs. It literally means powerless, or without self-control. It is found only here in 2 Timothy 3:3, but the antonym--kratos (G2904) is found in several passages such as Ephesians 1:19, Colossians 1:11, 1 Timothy 6:16, 1 Peter 5:11, Jude 1:25 and Revelation 5:13, et al. All these verses speak of the mighty power of Christ. W.E. Vine defines this characteristic as "morally impotent."(3) 

The word for fierce, the next term on the list, is not found anywhere else in scripture. It does however, have the negative participle for a prefix like many of the others, which can clue us in as to what the antonym is. The opposite for fierce that is used in scripture is meek, or gentle. Many passages in the New Testament have an author of an epistle exhorting his audience to practice gentleness and meekness towards all people and that the servant of God is not to be a brawler or striker(1 Tim. 3:3), or display any kind of ferociousness to anyone. 

Rounding out the list of terms that contain the negative participle prefix "a", is the description that is translated into the KJV as "...despisers of those that are good." The Greek for this phrase is transliterated "af-il-ag'-ath-os" which literally means "hostile to virtue" or "opposed to goodness and good men." The opposite of this word is found in Titus 1:8:"But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;"(emphasis mine). Such a one who is a "lover of good men" stands in direct contrast to one who despises those that are good. They are completely despondent of any internal reality toward a relationship with the risen Saviour. Yet, they maintain a certain form of godliness, or piety as we will see in a future post.

1.W.E. Vine Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words 1996 Nashville, TN                                    
2.Thayer's Greek Definitions
3. Ibid

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Jude pt. VIII section A: Jude's reminder of what the apostle's said

In verses 17 and 18 Jude reminds his readers of what the apostles Paul and Peter had said. Although the apostle John's epistles were written after Jude's epistle, John is an apostle nonetheless and he does have some words of warning to give so he ought to be included along with the other two. Starting with Paul, he issued a warning to the church at Ephesus regarding apostasy in Acts 20:29,30: "For I know this, that after my departure grievous wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and out of you yourselves will rise up men speaking perverted things, in order to draw away the disciples after themselves." Here, the warning is two-fold - false prophets from within and without the flock would rise up among the believers to draw some away after themselves and their own peverse doctrine. If this warning was applicable when the body of Christ was in its infancy, it is much more so today after two millenia. We still have men and women rising up, teaching sensual, alluring doctrines to draw away would be disciples of Christ to be disciples of themselves. We see teachers such as Norman Vincent Peale and talk-show queen Oprah Winfrey drawing believers away from Christ to rely on themselves through positive thinking. We also see teachers within the flock such as Rick Warren whose P.E.A.C.E. plan that thousands of churches across the U.S. have adopted as their own method of reaching out to unbelievers albeit without the gospel is not a major component in Warren's five point plan. 

Paul gives further warning to his son in the faith, Timothy in 1 Timothy 4 and 2 Timothy 3. In his first letter, he warns Timothy of how in the latter times many would depart from the faith. 
1 Timothy 4 describes the seducing spirits, doctrines of demons, and hypocritical lies taught by those who depart from the faith. 1 Tim. 4:1-3: Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.

This scathing description brings to my mind one theologian in particular: Augustine of Hippo. Augustine has over the centuries had a far-reaching influence on both the Roman Catholic and Protestant Church. Before professing faith in Christ, Augustine was a well known philosopher in throughout North Africa. He was at first a Manichaeist, and then a Neo-Platonist - both philosophies are gnostic and ascetic in doctrine and practice and Augustine borrowed much from these worldly teachings when his understanding of God took shape. Lawrence Vance writes: "In the dualism of the Manichaean system, the world was a struggle between Light and Darkness. The Manichees were to assist in the separation of Light from the world by asceticism, celibacy, poverty and vegetarianism - all practiced later by Augustine. It is also interesting to note that the Manichees divided into two groups: a minority, termed the Elect, and the majority known as Auditors or Hearers."(1) 

Augustine not only practiced these ascetic customs that Paul clearly warned would happen, he also justified persecution of the Donatists, dissenting believers who seperated from Constantine's catholic state church. "I would not believe the gospel if I were not commanded to by the catholic church." Augustine is known to have said. It has been said that Augustine is responsible for the three biggest controversies the Church has ever faced: Roman Catholicism, Calvinism, and amillenialism. More could be said about the travesties done by Augustine, but I digress. Perhaps this will provide fodder for a future post.

Paul gives yet another warning in his second epistle to Timothy in the third chapter. We read 2 Tim. 3:1-9:  This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 
For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 
  Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 
  Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 
  Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. 
  For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, 
  Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.  
  Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.

When broken down, we can see that the people who profess Christ as their Savior that Paul is describing here in 2 Timothy are blatantly disobedient to commands given throughout scripture. They shall be lovers of themselves -  unlike the character of Christ who did not please himself as it is written, "The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me." (Rom. 15:3). In these last days, men will love themselves more than the local body of believers. And if there is no love for the local body of believers, how will there be love for the unevangelized? The Church is like a family, all who call Christ their Savior are united as brothers and sisters in the Lord. If we do not love our spiritual family as we ought, I doubt there will be any desire to bring more people into the family of God. 

Men will also be covetous - the greek verb: φιλάργυρος- translated philarguros, literally means "fond of silver, to love money, avarice." Notice that the first two descriptions here are about love; first for one's self, and second for money. When Gehazi conversed with Naaman and asked of him a talent of silver, and two changes of clothing, it was out of a fondness for silver. So great was his avarice that he preyed on Naaman's generosity - generosity that was no doubt a fruit of his new condition. Gehazi, like a modern day false teacher preyed on this new convert to rob his pockets. As a result, Gehazi inherited the leprosy of Naaman. Gehazi's leprosy, a type of sin leprosy is, had its cause in the love of money (1 Tim. 6:10)

 The next two descriptions seem to go together: boasters, and proud. To boast speaks of being a braggart, while proud in the third verse speaks of one who holds themselves in higher esteem than others, considering themselves to be pre-eminent. Diotrephes was guilty of this kind of pride, so much so that he refused the apostle John. The word for boast is similar in meaning to the word for "glory" or "rejoice" which Paul uses in numerous verses throughout his epistles. When making use of this word for "glory", he always points out that if we are to glory, then we ought to glory in the Lord. In 2 Corinthians, Paul speaks with an air of ironic wit of how he has been compelled to be made a fool through his glorying. The end times however, will see an increase in men glorying of themselves, and they won't think twice about looking foolish. 

The Greek word for blasphemers in the third verse is transliterated as blasphemos and it literally means to speak evil of. It appears elsewhere in scripture in Acts 6:11,13 as well as 2 Peter 2:11. It is similar to the word used in Jude 1:9 in the context of Michael contending with Satan over the body of Moses and "durst not bring against him a railing accusation". The word "railing" in this verse is the noun form of the adjective blasphemos that is used here in 2 Timothy. 

Disobedient to parents is a unique description of those who depart from the faith in this passage in that this is something even pagan nations did not think highly of. In his Notes on the Bible Albert Barnes writes “Disobedience to parents was punished by the Jewish Law with death, and with the Hindus it is attended with the loss of the child’s inheritance. The ancient Greeks considered the neglect of it to be extremely impious, and attended with the most certain effects of divine vengeance. Solon ordered all persons who refused to make due provision for their parents to be punished with infamy, and the same penalty was incurred for personal violence toward them.”

The next to last description in the second verse of 2 Timothy 2 is unthankful, which literally means being unthankful, or ungrateful. But the meaning carries much more than merely describing one who is not thankful. The word is transliterated as acharistos; the prefix "a" connotes the absence or non-existence of some quality in this case, the quality of gratefulness, but also graciousness as the second part of this word is the verb "charizomai" and is derived from the noun "charis" meaning "graciousness". This word "charis" appears as the word "grace" in many well-known verses such as John 1:14, Romans 4:4, 11:5-6, Ephesians 2:7-8, et. al. It is used as "thank" or "thanks" in 1 Corinthians 15:57, 2 Corinthians 2:14, 9:15, 1 Timothy 1:12, and 2 Timothy 1:3. The word "charizomai" is used for a form of the word "forgive" in verses such as Luke 7:42-43, 2 Corinthians 2:7 & 10, Ephesians 4:32, and Colossians 3:13. In these last days professing believers will more and more be not only thankful to God for His unspeakable gift, but they will also be unforgiving to one another.

The very last description of this verse is "unholy". Like the word "unthankful", the Greek word has the prefix 'a' to indicate that the meaning of this word carries the idea that it is the absence of something - that is, holiness through divine character made possible only by the Spirit of God. The word without the 'a' is found in Titus 1:8 in Paul's description to Titus of what a shepherd of the flock must be. 

Footnotes: quoted by Gerald Bonner, "St Augustine of Hippo" in "The Other Side of Calvinism" by Laurence Vance.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

mostly spiritual musings: Jude part VII

mostly spiritual musings: Jude part VII: When Michael withstood the Devil over the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a railing accusation against him. Instead, he simply respon...

Jude part VII

When Michael withstood the Devil over the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a railing accusation against him. Instead, he simply responded with an appropiate "The Lord rebuke thee.". This is the same response the Angel of the LORD gave to the Devil according to the book of Zechariah when Satan stood at the right hand of Joshua to resist him. An interesting pattern is shown here. First, the chief prince of Israel, the archangel Michael rebukes Satan through the authority of the Lord. Then, the Angel of Jehovah, the pre-incarnate Christ does not even dare to rebuke Satan of his own power but by his Father's. Our Lord knew the day would come when the Devil, the accuser of the saints throughout the ages, would be cast into the lake of fire. But until then, we can only rely on the authority of the Lord and not on our own strength. Whether the Devil, the world, or the flesh is striving with our spirits, we must rebuke any of the three enemies of the believer through the authority of the Lord. Michael's example of not bringing an accusation against the Devil is in direct contradiction to the behavior of those who have abandoned the faith. For in verse 10, they who depart the faith are described as speaking evil of what they do not know. While the Lord was being crucified on the cross, he beseeched His Father to forgive those who reviled Him "for they know not what they do." This too is a fine example of how to deal with those leaving the faith for lasciviousness. In contending for the faith, we must rebuke them who have left in the name of the Lord, but also forgive them for speaking evil for what they do not know, as they know not what they do. 

Jude gives an appropiate exclamation of grief over these brute beasts who have corrupted themselves. He uses three Old Testament examples of unbelief and outright rebellion to describe those who have crept into the Church. Of Cain, it is said that they have gone in the way of him. This means that they have ordered their lives after the manner of Cain. Why is Cain used as an example?
Genesis 4:1-12 gives the account of Cain and Abel: "And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD. And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.  And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?  And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground. And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand; When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth." 
1 John 3:12 sheds some light onto this example: "Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous."

Five things can be said of "the way of Cain": 1. They come to God on their own terms. 2. They see the fruits of their works to be sufficient to obtain God's favor. 3. They are angry with God. 4. They are despise those who have obtained God's favor through faith in a blood sacrifice. 5. They prefer to be a vagabond and a fugitive than to endure God's chastening hand.

To go "in the way of Cain" is to reject God's free gift of grace, and to despise any who accept it. It is to be filled with so much pride that they think grace is owed to them for all the good they have done, and to not receive it is a crime. Cain as a false worshipper refused the acknoweldged way to God through blood sacrifice. He did not see any value in the shedding of blood for the remission of his sins. Apostates likewise, turn the grace of God into lasciviousness, denying the Lord who bought them, the only Lord Jesus Christ. 

The second example given is Balaam of which "they have ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward.". Balaam's account covers Numbers 22-24 and his influence is seen in the seceding chapters. Balaam's error was that the people who God has willed to bless could be cursed. Using enchantments, Balaam sought to curse Israel through the power of Satan. Eventually he realized that this was futile, but he did not give up on seeking to bring judgement on the Israelites. While Israel could not be cursed, they could be chastised for sinful acts that Balaam counseled them to do (Numbers 31:16). While Jude's epistle makes mention of Balaam's error, 2 Peter records his way. 2 Peter 2:15,16 says: "Who have forsaken the right way and have gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness, but had reproof of his lawbreaking, a dumb ass speaking in a man's voice, held back the madness of the prophet. If Balaam's error was that he could curse that which can not be cursed, his way would be characterized by love for unrighteous wages. His way must have been a source of motivation for him to determine to make such a grievous error. 

It is interesting that the Angel of the Lord used such an animal as a donkey to rebuke Balaam as a donkey is a picture of a meek and humble servant of an animal. Observe the conversation the lowly animal had with Balaam in Numbers 22:28-30: "Then the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, What have I done to you that you have struck me these three times? And Balaam said to the donkey because you have made a fool of me: I would there were a sword in mine hand for now I would kill thee And the ass said unto Balaam am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee? And he said, Nay." The donkey and the words the Lord put in her mouth could be set along side Michael the archangel and his example in rebuking Satan not by his name but by the Lord's. When we deal with false teachers it we must allow the Lord to open our mouths and speak in a meek and humble spirit. 

The final description in verse 11 is in reference to Korah who along with 250 men of reknown challenged the authority of Moses and Aaron. The sons of Korah were Levites who held a honorable post as ministers to the sanctuary, were not content to hold this position and desired the priesthood. In Numbers 16:3, Korah accuses Moses and Aaron of the very thing that he was guilty of. Fausset's Bible Dictionary says that "Korah's sin answers to that of sacerdotalist ministers who, not content with the honor of the ministry... usurp Christ's sacrificing and mediatorial priesthood; also to that of all men who think to be saved by their own doings instead of by His mediatorial work for us." Moses put some perspective on Korah and the men confederated with him in vv. 8-11: "And Moses said to Korah, 'Hear now you sons of Levi: is it a small thing for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to Himself, to do service in the tabernacle of the LORD and to stand before the congregation to minister to them, and that He has brought you near Him, and all your brothers the sons of Levi with you? and would you seek the priesthood also? Therefore it is against the LORD that you and all your company have gathered together. What is Aaron that you grumble against him?' " Korah should have been satsified to minister to the Lord and to Israel, but he and his men despised the dominion God placed them under. C.H. Mackintosh writes "This principle is of great importance in every assembly, where Christians are called to work together. It is a mistake to suppose that all the members of the body of Christ are called to places of prominence, or that any member can select his place in the body." 

Cain is the example of the false worshipper who denies the grace of God, Balaam, a false prophet with a desire to lead God's chosen people astray and into idolatry and fornication; Korah then, would be the type of false priest who revolts against the authority of Christ and His office of high priest. The Roman Church is most well known for assuming the priestly work which belongs only to Christ. But, we do see traces of the sin of Korah germinating in Protestant churches as well. 

The gainsaying of Korah rears its ugly head in Revelation 2:15 at the church at Pergamum. Here, the saints at that assembly tolerated those who hold the doctrine of Nicolaitism, which is the ultimate result that Korah coveted. The word "Nicolaitine" literally means "victory over the people". Korah sought to be victourious over the congregation of Israel. Korah gathered the congregation against Moses and Aaron at the door of the tabernacle (Num. 16:19). But when the Lord showed that He was ready to consume Korah as well as the congregation, the congregation immediately repented of their sin. Thus, Korah perished in his gainsaying; the false teachers described here in Jude while they may not have been put to death as of yet, God who is eternal sees their fate as occurring in the present.  

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened or dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.
Joshua 1:9

When I was returning to the United States from my trip to Colombia back in 2009, the itinerary was to fly out of Barranquilla for Panama City, and from there to Houston, and then on to my hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. The fog was so heavy in Barranquilla the morning I left that my flight was 45 minutes late taking off. I arrived in Panama City with just 5 minutes until my connecting flight was scheduled to take off. Anyone who has ever experienced the joys of traveling by plane knows that 5 minutes is not enough time to get off one plane and go to another gate perhaps a quarter mile away to get on your connecting flight. Even if it were, it would be a futile attempt as the tarmac usually closes approximately 15 minutes before takeoff. Needless to say, I was stuck in Panama City and although I refused to admit it, I knew in my heart as I raced to the terminal where my connecting flight houston that I would never make it on the plane.

 I was not the only person on that flight out of Barranquilla whose itinerary was to fly to Houston out of Panama. There were two older women, sisters who grew up in Colombia. There was a young man about my age who had also spent his childhood in Colombia. There was a native of Ecuador who had moved to Seattle, and a college age girl who was visiting a Colombian friend. The college age girl and myself were the only two out of the six of us who spoke no Spanish. Since we were all in the same boat, we decided to stick together as much as we could. I found this to be very helpful and I can imagine the other girl who spoke no spanish would concur!

 The two sisters had done an extensive amount of traveling, so they took it upon themselves to seek out representatives of this particular airline and demand that we all be taken care of while we were grounded in Panama. The representatives agreed to give us several hundred dollars worth of food and lodging vouchers. We took great advantage of the vouchers given to us and went out to eat at one of the airline restaurants. Since we were grounded at the airport for several hours at a minimum, we took the time to get to know each other and what we had visited Colombia for. Everyone took great interest in hearing about my trip to Colombia for a short term mission stay. An open door to preach the gospel!

 As the day wore on, a representative from the airline set each person in our little group with a new itinerary to reach their destination. When they got to me however, all I received was bad news. My luggage had been left in Barranquilla and it would have to reach Houston on a different flight than the one I would be taking. This was very discouraging. Being epileptic, I take great care in making sure I always have medication with me when i am gone for a long time. When I travel by plane, I have learned to put at least a week's worth of medication in my carry on bag. so I had enough medication to last me a week as well as a change of clothes and some deodorant. I was told by the representative that I would be given some vouchers for a hotel and food for the night, so I did not need to worry about what i would do for food or where to sleep. But because I was never given any vouchers despite repeated attempts I did worry!

 Finally around 9 or 10 at night, an employee told me they were ready to give me some vouchers and take me to a hotel for the night. As I was escorted out of the airport, no vouchers were handed to me still. I gave up, walked out of the airport and approached a cab driver to see if he knew of a way to help my situation. I tried explaining to him that i had no vouchers or money. That did not deter him; his response to me was : "that OK." I should have known that his English was worse than my Spanish but I just wanted to get out of there. 

When we got to the hotel, there was a man working behind the front desk who the cab driver seemed to know fairly well. From what I gathered, the cabbie was explaining my situation to the hotel clerk. But then to my dismay, the hotel clerk told me how much they charge and asked me if I would like to pay with cash or credit. ARRGH! now i was really frustrated, but I tried to contain myself and slowly explained to the clerk and the cabbie that I had no money or vouchers. I noticed the cab driver's reaction was much like mine: he sighed and shook his head. "He understands me now, why didnt he understand me at the airport?" I thought. I was able to work out a deal and told the hotel clerk that I did have an emergency credit card on me that I could use. The clerk informed me that he would write up a receipt and I could present the receipt to a airline rep in the morning to receive a refund. Everyone was happy again.

 As I was getting ready for bed, I thought about my horrible luck and all the things that had happened to me in that single day. I started to fear about what could happen in the next 24 hours. What if I got robbed, or missed my flight? Would I have to stay another night in Panama and be forced to pay once again out of my own pocket? To be honest, I felt like crying. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the verse Joshua 1:9 came to the front of my mind. I thought about the positive side of the command to be strong and courageous. I thought about the negative side of the command to not be frightened or dismayed. I thought about how the LORD was with me the entire time in Panama and how all things work together for good. I realized I had a bad attitude when I was reviewing the day's events. I repented of my doubt and lack of faith and confessed my sin of unbelief before the God. I decided to review them again, but with these truths in mind that everything works together for good for those that love the Lord, and that God is with His children wherever they go, in whatever circumstance they find themselves in. Now I began to realize that this horrible day was for the glory of God. Everything that happened was for the purpose of teaching me something. For example, when the plane leaving Barranquilla was delayed from taking off because of the fog, I had to learn patience because as I would soon find out, that day would turn out to be the longest day of my life. Throughout the day, I was frustrated with the language barrier and my inability to effectively communicate with any of the representatives. I had to learn to be patient with other people who are just doing their job. I realized that I was given the oppurtunity to witness to five people during my time at the Panama airport; I had to learn to look for oppurtunities to spread the gospel. 

When I arrived at the airport the following morning I took the receipt the hotel clerk had given me and presented it to a represenatative like he advised. It took almost a half-hour for them to give me a refund, but when they did, I started to feel better. Instead of flying straight to Houston, I was re-routed to fly to Mexico City and then to Houston. When I arrived in Mexico City, I went straight to an airline official to talk to them about my luggage. Unfortunately, my luggage was just then reaching Panama even though it had a full day to catch up with me. With a renewed frame of mind, I did not let this discourage me. My face set like a flint, I continued on towards Houston. 

I weighed my options when I arrived in Houston as to whether or not I wanted to check and see if my luggage had caught up with me. Given the amount of time I had until I had to board my final flight, I made the risky decision to leave Houston without checking to see if my luggage arrived. I especially felt the weight of the decision I was making when I got to the checkpoint and a security guard asked me where my luggage was at. "It's not with me... it's on another flight." I stammered. The security guard looked at me like I was crazy and waved me along. So I flew from Houston to Omaha with only my carry-on bag, believing that God would eventually in good faith deliver my luggage to Omaha in His own time. I arrived in Omaha pretty late, around 11:30 at night. I was exhausted and did not feel like looking for my bag. But I felt that if God was faithful to bring my luggage and I did not bother to at least check, then I would not be faithful to Him and not fully believing on Him. I went to the conveyor belt where your luggage is put on to be picked up and patiently waited for it to appear as other people picked up their bags with no anticipation. After a while, I decided I might as well go to the customer service desk and let them know my luggage had not made it yet. They were closed, which was a good thing, because as I was walking back towards the baggage claims area, I saw my luggage sitting on the conveyor belt directly behind the one that I was originally searching for my bag at. It had been a long 36+ hours but I learned many things about myself. Looking back in hindsight, I realize now that the time I spent in Panama City was one of the most awesome adventures I will probably ever have. If I were given the chance to go back in time and do things differently, I think I would probably decline. 

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Psalm 23:4