Category Archives: Bible

A Response to a Comment

Last week, a very kind reader left a comment on my blog that included a lengthy article written by Dr. Peter Hammond, a missionary from South Africa with a very impressive resume and list of accomplishments.  I would love to meet Dr. Hammond some day.  Following is my response to the comment, which is really a response to Dr. Hammond’s article:

Thank you so much for responding to my blog post.  I have only ever wanted to engage others in conversation.  Dr. Hammond’s article that you sent had a lot of information, and obviously Dr. Hammond has thought a lot about how he feels about these issues of self-defense and gun control.  I’m not sure why you were saddened by what you read on my blog, although I assume you were saddened that I was so misled as to abandon my jobs in the name of Jesus when obviously I didn’t understand what the Bible has to say about the topic.

I would like, in all humility, to tell you how I respond to the article you sent.  Again, I thank you for sending the article.  And I pray that my response is helpful to you, if you will entertain it.

In the first section, Dr. Hammond relates how his older brother was attacked at his home in South Africa and his older brother was able to fend off the attackers with a combination of his pistol, quick & accurate shooting, and the LORD’s protection.

What a story!  It is so exciting and captivating that it really gets my blood flowing and has me on edge until the end.  I have a lot of thoughts after reading it:  (1) is it possible that the LORD protected Derek & his family in spite of his violence?  (2) is it possible that Satan protected Derek & his family as a reward for his violence?  And to continue to confuse modern Christians about the use of violence?  (3) what are the most effective weapons that Christians have at their disposal?  The article itself later says:  “the primary weapons of missionaries are the Bible, prayer, faith and persuasion.”  I would say the most effective weapons are prayer, faith, and love.  Could these three weapons have been used by God?

Dr. Hammond closes this section of the article by quoting Oliver Cromwell as saying, “trust in God and keep your powder dry.”  I don’t know enough about Oliver Cromwell to speak intelligently about him, but allow me to ask another rhetorical question:  Are you trusting in God if you are also trusting in your own abilities to keep your powder dry and deliver quick & accurate shooting?  God is glorified when we reach the end of ourselves and rely on him for miraculous deliverance.

Dr. Hammond’s article next goes into a section entitled, “Self Defence in the Law of God,” saying the Law of God is clear.  I agree that the Law, under the old covenant, was clear.  The Law allowed a homeowner to strike a thief and kill him, leaving the homeowner guiltless of the bloodshed.  Exodus 22:2.

Next, though, Dr. Hammond quotes our Lord Jesus Christ saying, “He who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.”  Luke 22:36.  But let us look at the context of that statement.  Jesus was speaking to his disciples.  Jesus was about to be arrested by an angry mob.  Jesus was soon to be crucified by the Roman empire.  And the disciples would be persecuted by the Jewish leaders who arrested Jesus and the Roman empire that crucified him.  The disciples were about to be set-upon on all sides.  In this context, Jesus tells the disciples to buy swords.  And it would seem Dr. Hammond’s point is proven.  But then, in verse 38, the disciples respond, “Lord, look, here are two swords.”  And Jesus responds, “It is enough.”

There are at least two ways to interpret Jesus’ response.  The problem with the written word is that we don’t get body language and voice inflection.  Was Jesus saying, in effect, two swords will be enough for you to protect yourself from the persecution you are about to face?  Or was Jesus saying, that is enough talking about matters of this world when you are on the brink of the most important event in all history?

Two more points:  in verses 48-51, this is what happened:  “But Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?’  When those around Him saw what was going to happen, they said to Him, ‘Lord, shall we strike with the sword?’  And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear.  But Jesus answered and said, ‘Permit even this.’  And He touched his ear and healed him.”  So here the disciples ask if they can strike with the sword that Jesus had just told them to buy.  What do you suppose Jesus’ answer would have been, if the disciple had given Jesus time to answer?  Rather than encouraging the use of the sword, Jesus heals.

Last point:  In John 18:36, Jesus says to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.  If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews;  but now My kingdom is not from here.”

If there was ever an instance where it would be appropriate to use violence, the protection of your lord would seem to be it.

But look at the way the early church acted after receiving the Holy Spirit.  Particularly, look at the martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 6-7).  Why did the Christians not rise up in defense of Stephen to prevent his martyrdom?  There is not a single account under the new covenant, after the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, of a follower of The Way striking out with a sword, or any other weapon, or a rock, or even a fist.

Dr. Hammond continues by quoting I Timothy 5:8, but expands the verse to say something the verse does not say.  I agree that fathers and husbands are required by Almighty God to provide for their families.  “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the Faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”  1 Timothy 5:8.  I agree that this includes providing food, housing, clothing, education, medical care, love, discipleship and spiritual guidance.  But where does it say that I must kill another man to protect my children.  Is that other man’s soul less precious to God than my son’s physical well being?  If Christians had killed those who killed Stephen, they would have killed Saul, who became the apostle Paul.

I guess I should go back to what the Law says about killing another human.  Are we still under the Law?  Or do we have a higher calling?  Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.  I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”  Galatians 2:20-21.  Paul also says we are to sacrifice our bodies.  Romans 12:1.  We no longer live.  And our ministry is a ministry of reconciliation.  2 Corinthians 5:18.

The author of Hebrews likewise states, “For you have not comes to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire [the mountain of the Law, Mount Sinai]…But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels,”  Hebrews 12:18-22.

Faith and Firearms

In the next section, Dr. Hammond lists many missionaries who carried weapons.  Dr. Hammond seems to confuse defense against animals and defense from other humans.  All I can say is that even the best and most devoted of missionaries can allow selfishness to cloud their judgment.  The selfishness of self-preservation.  The scariest passage in the Bible might be Matthew 7:21-23:  “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name? And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you, depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

It is amazing that Dr. Hammond cites Mark 7:21-23.  I couldn’t agree more!  “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.  All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”

Dr. Hammond then proceeds to cite to what he calls, “historic Christian teaching” – the 39 Articles of the Church of England and the Westminster Catechism.  Authoritative historic Christian teaching would come from Christian teaching before the conversion of Constantine.  There is NO historic record of any Christian serving in a military until the close of the second century.  It was not until Constantine’s conversion in the late fourth century that Christians were told by their leaders it was okay to join the military because their leader was Christian, therefore they were fighting for a Christian empire.  But Jesus told us His kingdom is not of this world.  And Satan is the prince of this world.  And although all civil authority is permitted to exist by God, that does not mean God approves of their actions (Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia?).

Gun Control

I am striving to be apolitical, but I can tell you that I do not agree with gun control.  I own guns and I want to keep owning guns.  All I am saying is that I do not want to use my guns against another human being.

The truth is that people kill people.  Whether it is machetes and clubs in Rwanda or atomic weapons in Japan or firebombing in Germany.  All three of those examples are examples of the unlawful use of weapons in war because they were used against civilians.  But I don’t want to digress into a discussion of the lawfulness of nuclear weapons or America’s past wars.  My point is I agree with Dr. Hammond that gun control is not an issue and gun control won’t solve anything.

Dr. Hammond closes with a quote from Nehemiah, so I will close with a quote from the Lord Jesus Christ:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I tell you not to resist an evil person.  But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also.  And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.  Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.  You have heard that it is said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others?  Do not even the tax collectors do so?”  Matthew 5:38-47

8 Comments

Filed under Bible

A Jesus Manifesto

This morning, I read A Jesus Manifesto.  Wow!  It just blew me away.  It synopsizes truth.  I was a little bothered by the plug for certain books that came at the end, but, ultimately, the manifesto makes many of the thoughts I have been having quite clear.  For instance:

It is possible to emphasize a spiritual truth, value, virtue, or gift, yet miss Christ . . . who is the embodiment and incarnation of all spiritual truth, values, virtues, and gifts.

Seek a truth, a value, a virtue, or a spiritual gift, and you have obtained something dead.

Jesus Christ cannot be separated from his teachings. Aristotle says to his disciples, “Follow my teachings.” Socrates says to his disciples, “Follow my teachings.” Buddha says to his disciples, “Follow my meditations.” Confucius says to his disciples, “Follow my sayings.” Muhammad says to his disciples, “Follow my noble pillars.” Jesus says to his disciples, “Follow me.” In all other religions, a follower can follow the teachings of its founder without having a relationship with that founder. Not so with Jesus Christ. The teachings of Jesus cannot be separated from Jesus himself. Jesus Christ is still alive and he embodies his teachings. It is a profound mistake, therefore, to treat Christ as simply the founder of a set of moral, ethical, or social teaching. The Lord Jesus and his teaching are one. The Medium and the Message are One. Christ is the incarnation of the Kingdom of God and the Sermon on the Mount.

Being a follower of Jesus does not involve imitation so much as it does implantation and impartation. Incarnation–the notion that God connects to us in baby form and human touch—is the most shocking doctrine of the Christian religion. The incarnation is both once-and-for-all and ongoing, as the One ―who was and is to come now is and lives his resurrection life in and through us. Incarnation doesn’t just apply to Jesus; it applies to every one of us. Of course, not in the same sacramental way. But close. We have been given God’s “Spirit” which makes Christ “real” in our lives. We have been made, as Peter puts it, “partakers of the divine nature.” How, then, in the face of so great a truth can we ask for toys and trinkets? How can we lust after lesser gifts and itch for religious and spiritual thingys? We’ve been touched from on high by the fires of the Almighty and given divine life. A life that has passed through death – the very resurrection life of the Son of God himself. How can we not be fired up?
To put it in a question: What was the engine, or the accelerator, of the Lord’s amazing life? What was the taproot or the headwaters of his outward behavior? It was this: Jesus lived by an indwelling Father. After his resurrection, the passage has now moved. What God the Father was to Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ is to you and to me. He’s our indwelling Presence, and we share in the life of Jesus’ own relationship with the Father. There is a vast ocean of difference between trying to compel Christians to imitate Jesus and learning how to impart an implanted Christ. The former only ends up in failure and frustration. The latter is the gateway to life and joy in our daying and our dying. We stand with Paul: “Christ lives in me.” Our life is Christ. In him do we live, breathe, and have our being. “What would Jesus do?” is not Christianity. Christianity asks: “What is Christ doing through me … through us? And how is Jesus doing it?” Following Jesus means ―trust and obey (respond), and living by his indwelling life through the power of the Spirit.

Jesus Christ was not a social activist nor a moral philosopher. To pitch him that way is to drain his glory and dilute his excellence. Justice apart from Christ is a dead thing. The only battering ram that can storm the gates of hell is not the cry of Justice, but the name of Jesus. Jesus Christ is the embodiment of Justice, Peace, Holiness, Righteousness. He is the sum of all spiritual things, the “strange attractor” of the cosmos. When Jesus becomes an abstraction, faith loses its reproductive power. Jesus did not come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people live.

It is possible to confuse an academic knowledge or theology about Jesus with a personal knowledge of the living Christ himself. These two stand as far apart as do the hundred thousand million galaxies. The fullness of Christ can never be accessed through the frontal lobe alone. Christian faith claims to be rational, but also to reach out to touch ultimate mysteries. The cure for a big head is a big heart.
Jesus does not leave his disciples with CliffsNotes for a systematic theology. He leaves his disciples with breath and body.
Jesus does not leave his disciples with a coherent and clear belief system by which to love God and others. Jesus gives his disciples wounds to touch and hands to heal.
Jesus does not leave his disciples with intellectual belief or a “Christian worldview.” He leaves his disciples with a relational faith.
Christians don’t follow a book. Christians follow a person, and this library of divinely inspired books we call “The Holy Bible” best help us follow that person. The Written Word is a map that leads us to The Living Word. Or as Jesus himself put it, “All Scripture testifies of me.” The Bible is not the destination; it’s a compass that points to Christ, heaven’s North Star.
The Bible does not offer a plan or a blueprint for living. The “good news” was not a new set of laws, or a new set of ethical injunctions, or a new and better PLAN. The “good news” was the story of a person’s life, as reflected in The Apostle’s Creed. The Mystery of Faith proclaims this narrative: “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.” The meaning of Christianity does not come from allegiance to complex theological doctrines, but a passionate love for a way of living in the world that revolves around following Jesus, who taught that love is what makes life a success . . . not wealth or health or anything else: but love. And God is love.

Okay, so I quoted alot of it.  I really found it profound.  It spoke to me.  Read it.  Maybe it will speak to you.

3 Comments

Filed under Bible, Books

The Name of God

The most popular search term that finds this blog is, unbelievably, ‘Floyd Nolen Jones.’  Floyd Nolen Jones is the author of Which Version is the Bible?, a book I reviewed a few years ago.  I read the book because I had recently been exposed to “King-James-only” types (otherwise known as “King James or else”).  Dr. Jones’ book appears to me to be one of the top books explaining this King-James-only view.

Interestingly enough, Dr. Jones starts his book with a section labeled, “To the Reader — the Sounding of an Alarm.”  Following is its text:

In the King James Bible, Isaiah 14:12, 15 reads:

How are thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!
… Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell.

However, the New International Version pens:

How you are fallen from heaven O morning star, son of the dawn
but you are brought down to the grave.

Indeed, the New American Standard and all the modern versions read almost exactly like the NIV (except the NKJV).  Yet historically Isaiah 14 has been cited throughout the Church as the singular biography and identification of Lucifer [citation omitted].  In verse twelve of the King James, Lucifer is in heaven;  in verse fifteen Satan is in hell, and the continuing context establishes that Lucifer and Satan are one and the same being.  The new versions have removed the name “Lucifer” thereby eliminating the only reference to his true identity in the entire Bible — yet the change in these versions is not the result of translation from the Hebrew language.

The Hebrew here is helel, ben shachar, which translates, “Lucifer, son of the morning” (as is found in all the old English translations written before 1611 when teh KJB was published).  The NIV, NASB et al. read as though the Hebrew was kokab shachar, ben shachar or “morning star, son of the dawn” (or “son of the morning”).  But not only is the Hebrew word for star (kokab) nowhere to be found in the text, “morning” appears only once as given in the KJB — not twice as the modern translations indicate.  Moreover, the word kokab is translated as “star” dozens of other times by the translators of these new “bibles”.  Their editors also know that kokab boqer is “morning star” for it appears in plural form in Job 38:7 (i.e., morning stars).  Had the Lord intended “morning star” in Isaiah 14, He could have eliminated any confusion by repeating kokab boqer there.  God’s selection of helel (Hebrew for Lucifer) is unique as it appears nowhere else in the Old Testament.

Moreover, Revelation 22:16 (also 2:28 and II Pet. 1:19) declares unequivocally that Jesus Christ is the “morning star” or “day star” (II Pet. 1:19, cp. Luk. 1:78; Mal. 4:2), meaning the sun — not the planet Venus.

I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches.  I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.

Thus it must be understood that the identification of Lucifer as being the morning star does not find its roots in the Hebrew O.T., but from classical mythology and witchcraft where he is connected with the planet Venus (the morning “star”).

The wording in the modern versions reads such that it appears the fall recorded in Isaiah 14 is speaking of Jesus rather than Lucifer the Devil!  The rendering of “morning star” in place of “Lucifer” in this passage must be seen by the Church as nothing less than the ultimate blasphemy.  The NASV compounds its role as malefactor by placing II Peter 1:19 in the reference next to Isaiah 14 thereby solidifying the impression that the passage refers to Christ Jesus rather than Satan.  But Lucifer (helel) does not mean “morning star”.  It is Latin (from lux or lucis = light, plus fero = to bring) meaning “bright one”, “light bearer” or “light bringer”.  Due to the brightness of the planet Venus, from ancient times the word “Lucifer” (helel) has been associated in secular and/or pagan works with that heavenly body.

Among the modern versions, only the King James (and NKJV) gives proof that Lucifer is Satan.  Without its testimony this central vital truth would soon be lost.  This fact alone sets the King James Bible apart from and far above all modern would-be rivals.  Truly, it is an achievement sui generis.  Indeed, the older English versions (the 1560 Geneva etc.) also read “Lucifer”.

The clarion has been faithfully and clearly sounded (I Cor. 14:8).  If the reader is not greatly alarmed by the above, it is pointless for him to continue reading.  However, if concern has been aroused as to how this deception has been foisted not only upon the Christian Church, but on the general public as well — read on.  The story lies before you.

Well, I have to say, these first two pages did not greatly alarm me.  Perhaps they should have, but they didn’t.

What I find interesting today is that with all the alarm Dr. Jones expresses over the omission of this singular occurrence of the name of Lucifer, there is not one single mention in the entire text of the repeated and deliberate omission of the Name of God, not just in the NIV and NASB, but in his beloved King James Authorized Version as well.  Go ahead, read your Bible through time and again.  It says quite plainly that those who call upon the Name of the LORD shall be saved.  So, what is His Name?  The God of the Hebrews makes a very big deal about names in general, but makes an especially big deal about His Name.  But what is it?  Just to be clear, is name is not LORD, although that is how it is typically translated.  Sometimes, your Bible probably says Lord and other times it says LORD.  There is a difference, but you wouldn’t know it from reading your Bible from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22.  You won’t find it in your Bible, but His Name can be transliterated “Yahweh.”

The translator’s notes admit to what they have done in the NIV and the NASB.  The NASB notes are particularly interesting:

In the scriptures, the name of God is most significant and understandably so.  It is inconceivable to think of spiritual matters without a proper designation for the Supreme Deity.  Thus the most common name for the Deity is God, a translation of the original Elohim.  One of the titles for God is Lord, a translation of Adonai.  There is yet another name which is particularly assigned to God as His special or proper name, that is, the four letters YHWH (Exodus 3:14 and Isaiah 42:8).  This name has not been pronounced by the Jews because of reverence for the great sacredness of the divine name.  Therefore, it has been consistently translated LORD.  The only exception to this translation of YHWH is when it occurs in immediate proximity to the word Lord, that is, Adonai.  In that case it is regularly translated GOD in order to avoid confusion.

It is known that for many years YHWH has been transliterated as Yahweh, however no complete certainty attaches to this pronunciation.

So, in summary, the Name of God is incredibly important, or essential, so we have left it out.  Instead, we have translated His Name as the title LORD, which is, incidentally, how we translate one of his titles, so to avoid confusion, rather than translating His Name as Yahweh and his title as Lord and the two together as Lord Yahweh, we will translate His Name as LORD, his title as Lord, and the two together as GOD.  Just to avoid confusion.

Deleting the Name of Yahweh from the Bible is far more offensive to me than deleting the name of Lucifer.

2 Comments

Filed under Bible, Books, Review

Flag Day

In honor of Flag Day, these are the notes that I shared on Sunday with other members of our fellowship.  I’m just trying to alienate the few readers I have left:

Philippians 3:20a states, “But our citizenship is in heaven.”  I have always heard this and wondered what it meant.  Does this mean we should renounce our citizenship of any country in this world?

Satan is the prince of this world.  John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11.  He had authority to grant the kingdoms to Jesus.  Matthew 4:8-10.  Satan has been given all the authority and splendor of the kingdoms.  Luke 4:5-8.  Additionally, when Satan claimed to have authority over the kingdoms of this world, Jesus did not dispute these claims.  Matthew 4:10, Luke 4:8.

I understand that Romans 13 says that the governing authorities were established by God, just as Satan was established by God as the prince and authority of this world.  God permits Satan to work out his ministry of death in this age, using the governing authorities as his tool.

There are many who attempt to combine Christianity and patriotism in claims that patriotism is right and good for a Christian.  I now doubt such statements.

Satan is a great deceiver and he can make false things look true.  For example, look at the following passage:

21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

There are many alive today that profess Christianity who will not make it into the Kingdom of Heaven.  You may think I am referring to C&Es, but I’m not.  Read the passage again, these people who will be rejected prophesied in the name of Jesus and drove out demons and performed miracles.  These are Christians who truly believed they were on the right path and I would hazard a guess that those around them thought them to be mighty followers of Christ.  But they are deceived.

Two more examples, from Acts 18:24-19:7 follow:

24Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.

27When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. 28For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.

Acts 19

Paul in Ephesus

1While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

3So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”
“John’s baptism,” they replied.

4Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 6When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. 7There were about twelve men in all.

Look at Apollos.  His qualifications would seem to be complete to most professing Christians today; He is learned, has a thorough knowledge of the scriptures, instructed in the way of the Lord, spoke with great fervor, and he taught about Jesus accurately.  But Apollos is evidence that there is a difference between knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus.

And this passage is evidence that there is a great mission field among professing Christians.  There is an opportunity for modern Priscillas and Acquilas to explain The Way more adequately.

One final note:  There will not be a place in heaven for those who say, “Jesus wants me to do this, but I won’t do it.”

2 Comments

Filed under Bible

Unemployed

Thank you to those who have talked with me and prayed for me through these several months of searching into what the Bible says about violence.  I must say, I had read the passages many times, but chose to ignore them.  Four months ago, I was of the opinion that if anyone wanted to hurt me or my family, they would have to pay dearly.  I have a 9mm pistol beside my bed that is exhibit one in the case to prove that I was prepared to defend my homestead ‘unto death.’

Today, I am a changing man.  I have accepted that when Jesus said, “Love your enemies,” He meant it.  And the Bible doesn’t say it just once.  The Bible repeats itself in Romans 12 and Hebrews 12.

I know that there are those who would say that there are many examples of warriors approved of God (David is the prime example).  But it is important to note that these Old Testament warriors were warring on behalf of God’s chosen people;  they were warring on behalf of Yahweh, who told them to go up and fight these people.  But Jesus says in the New Testament, when talking to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”  I will fight on behalf of Jesus’ kingdom, but His kingdom is not of this world.

There are others who distinguish personal commands from the authority given to governments.  This is a much harder distinction to work through.  For today, I will simply repeat that Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world.  The prince of this world is Satan.  And all the kingdoms of this world fall under his authority.  And I will not be an officer of a kingdom of Satan.

So, I am firmly convicted that Jesus wants me to live a life of non-violence.  Which conflicts with my status as a member of the United States Air Force as well as my employment as an administrator with a state prison.  So I knew that I would have to leave both positions.  But I was making excuses for extending my time with both agencies.  Until I read James 4:4, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”  If I am in an adulterous relationship outside of my relationship with God, I am sure He wants me to end it immediately, rather than make excuses for continuing my infidelity.  So I ended my relationship with the Air Force and with the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services.  May 29 was my last day with the Air Force.  And June 12 is my last day with the prison.

And no, I don’t have anything lined up.  But I will talk more about that next time.

4 Comments

Filed under Bible, Work

Roots of Just War

The roots of modern international law come from one specific strand of thought emerging out of antiquity:  the Christian Roman Empire that took shape after the conversion to Christianity of the Emperor Constantine in the year 312 AD.  Although there were important ideas of restraint in war in pre-Christian Greek and Roman thought and indeed in cultures all over the world, it is the blend of Christian and Greco-Roman thought that set the context of the development of full-blown just war thinking over a period of centuries.

Christianity before this time had been suspicious of entanglement in the affairs of the Empire.  For the first several centuries of the movement, Christians interpreted the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount and other places quite literally, and saw themselves as committed to pacifism (the refusal to use force or violence in all circumstances).  Although many appreciated the relative peace, prosperity, and ease of travel the Empire’s military force made possible, Christians felt prayer on behalf of the Emperor was the limit of their direct support for it.

Much changed with Constantine.

This was part of my reading for Air Command & Staff College, my professional military education, excerpted from “Ethical Issues in War:  An Overview,” by Martin L. Cook, originally published by the Strategic Studies Institute in U.S. Army War College Guide to National Security Policy and Strategy, 2d Edition, Chapter 3, June 2006.

“Much changed with Constantine.”  So the question I ask is, were those changes good?  On the one hand, Christians were no longer being eaten by lions on a regular basis as entertainment for Roman citizens.  On the other hand, is it right for Christ-followers to accept a “blend of Christian and Greco-Roman thought?”  When you blend these thought patterns, do you lose something of the pure Christian thought mode?  Dangerous questions, I think.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Military

Define The Church

It has been a while since I posted and I don’t have much time today, but I want to write a post in the near future about the church.  So, for the two of you who read this blog, I want to ask you to define the church.  I think this will be a fun and exciting study.

3 Comments

Filed under Bible

The Christian and This World

I have been reading in Titus lately, as well as reading commentary in the Believer’s Bible Commentary, a gift to me from a respected friend. Today I came across a section titled “The Christian and This World” under Titus 3:1:

Believers should obey the laws, including traffic laws, and pay their taxes and other levies. In general they should be law-abiding, respectful, obedient subjects. However, there are three areas in which Christians differ considerably as to their proper responsibility. These are the matters of voting, of seeking elected office, and of going to war with the armed forces. With regard to the first two, the following helpful guidelines are laid down in the Bible:

  1. Christians are in the world but are not of it (John 17:14-16).
  2. The whole world system is in the hands of the wicked one, and has been condemned by God (1 John 5:19b; 2:17; John 12:31)
  3. The Christian’s mission is not to improve the world, but to see men saved out of it.
  4. While the believer is almost unavoidably a citizen of some earthly country, his primary citizenship is from heaven — so much so that he is to look upon himself as a pilgrim and an alien down here (Phil 3:20; 1 Peter 2:11)
  5. No soldier on active duty should entangle himself with the affairs of this life, lest he displease the one who has enlisted him (2 Timothy 2:4).
  6. The Lord Jesus said: “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). As His ambassadors, we should represent this truth to the world.
  7. Politics tend to become corrupt by their very nature. Christians should separate themselves from iniquity (2 Corinthians 6:17, 18).
  8. In voting, a Christian would normally vote for a man thought to be upright and honest. But sometimes it is God’s will to exalt the lowest of men (Daniel 4:17). How could we know and obey the will of God in such cases?

The other question is whether a believer should go to war when ordered by his country. There are strong arguments on both sides, but it seems to me that the balance of evidence is against participating. The principles listed above bear on the problem, but there are additional ones. (1) Our Lord said, “If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight” (John 18:36). (2) He also said, “all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). (3) The whole idea of taking human life is opposed to the teaching of Him who said, “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44).

Those who are opposed to bearing arms can be grateful if they live in a country where they are allowed to register as conscientious objectors or noncombatants.

On the other hand, many Christian men have served in combat with honor. They have noted that the New Testament presents centurions (e.g. Cornelius and Julius) in a very favorable light. Also, figures of speech from military life are used to illustrate the Christian warefare (e.g. Ephesians 6:10-17).  If soldiering were inherently wrong it is hard to see how Paul could call on us to be “good soldiers of Jesus Christ.”  Whichever view a person holds, he should not judge or condemn those who disagree.  There is room for differing opinions.

Many of these thoughts are thoughts I have been struggling with, not only because we are in the midst of the great presidential election, but also because of local political issues, such as whether homeschoolers in Nebraska should be subjected to standardized testing, something I personally vehemently oppose.  In the midst of dealing with this local issue, we visited the state capitol and talked with our senator and heard a speech from our governor, in which the governor vowed to veto the bill if it ever made it to his desk.  All very reassuring stuff.  But while there in the capitol building, I pondered what I could possibly do to make a bigger difference than to pray for the government.  If I engage the governor or senator in a conversation, am I not just as likely to push them away from my cause as I am to persuade them to see things my way?  I am troubled by all this because I have been trained since I was a small child that a good citizen is involved and votes, writes letters to representatives, etc.

Another point I would make about seeking elected office is, to my knowledge, there are no instructions anywhere in the New Testament that cover how to behave if you are an elected official.  There are many Old Testament examples, but few (if any) New Testament directions.

And I still don’t know what to make of a Christian serving in the military, despite my own service record and my attempts at continuing my service as a reservist.  I enjoyed my service to my country.  And it was very rewarding, financially.  But it is a grave entanglement in the affairs of this world.  And as a commissioned officer, I have set myself up as an ambassador of the United States.  I cannot be an ambassador of both the Lord and the United States.

5 Comments

Filed under Bible

Quote for the Day

I found this amazing passage today:

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.  It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope — the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. 

For the King James or else crowd:

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;  looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ;  who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. 

And the Amplified Version provides its own sermon:

For the grace of God (His unmerited favor and blessing) has come forward (appeared) for the deliverance from sin and the eternal salvation for all mankind.  It has trained us to reject and renounce all ungodliness (irreligion) and worldly (passionate) desires, to live discreet (temperate, self-controlled), upright, devout (spiritually whole) lives in the present world, awaiting and looking for the [fulfillment, the realization of our] blessed hope, even the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus (the Messiah, the Anointed One), who gave Himself on our behalf that He might redeem us (purchase our freedom) from all iniquity and purify for Himself a people [to be peculiarly His own, people who are] eager and enthusiastic about [living a life that is good and filled with] beneficial deeds.

This passage is Titus 2:11-14 and I think, on initial thought without time to really analyze, that this is a great summary of the Bible and what it means to me.  God’s grace has freed me from the power of sin, empowering me to live a self-controlled life filled with good works.

1 Comment

Filed under Bible

Women Silent in the Church

Yesterday, I pondered for a while the command of I Corinthians 14:34, namely that “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says.”  I have often wondered about this topic, but have never taken the time to think it through.  A few weeks ago, I got the opportunity to have a breakthrough in my thoughts on this topic.  This is a tough topic for me because I have always appreciated the insight that women have into various topics.  Flat out, I believe that men and women are different and have different perspectives on many topics.  The insight women have is often valuable, so the thought of excluding them from teaching roles was hard enough to bear, but this says that women should be ‘silent’ in the church.

First, there is something to be said for just being obedient and submitting to the Word of God.  There are many instructions in the Bible that may not make a whole lot of sense, but when we just obey God, there is blessing that flows from it.  A few examples:  Old Testament hygiene laws — many of these laws are actually quite beneficial to the health and welfare of a community, but modern science didn’t understand until just recently (within the last 100 years or so);  Tithing — it is counterintuitive to think that giving away at least 10% of your income will free you from bondage to money, but it does; and Headcoverings(?).

Second, the typical argument in favor of obeying this instruction is that if women are silent in the church, this allows man to step forward and exercise his God-given authority.  God set man as the spiritual leader of his household.  This is not a task that many men accept and perform, probably because of feelings of inadequacy.  Most men would rather someone else stepped forward and took charge and led family devotions.  The same is true at church.  Men would rather fade into the background than step forward and lead as they are called to lead.  So if the men lean against the walls of the church and a woman steps forward to lead, they are all relieved, in their own minds, of their obligation to lead.  In reality, they are robbed of their opportunity to lead.

The other week, it was made clear to me the further implications of women being silent in the church.  I was at a meeting of men (the leadership) at a small church and there was some discussion about how to run something in the church.  This was a meeting of men because this church believed and practiced that it was the men who were to run the church.  There was some discussion, but then it was realized that there should be input from the children on this matter, as well as the mothers.  So all the men agreed to go home and discuss it with their families and return the following week for further discussion on the topic.

Do you see it?  If a woman is silent in the church, this encourages discussion at home because that is the woman’s way to be heard.  If a woman is silent in the church, this brings families closer together and helps families to model the plan laid out by Paul.  The father listens to the desires and concerns of his family, but then he decides what inputs to give to the church community.

I don’t have answers.  These are just my thoughts.  In fact, I probably have more questions than answers.  Like, what about music?  I wrote some of my thoughts down while listening to a very good female musician perform at a local church.  Does woman’s silence in the church mean that women cannot lead worship?  Does it mean they can’t participate?  There is no exception in the scriptures, but there are few things that show the glory of God better than a woman’s voice singing.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Church