No Such Thing As Coincidence

24 04 2010

I don’t know if you are one to believe in coincidences, but I like to remember Obi Wan Kenobi sometimes: “In my experience there is no such thing as coincidence.” So with that in mind, let me lay out yesterday.

I am a part of a tutoring ministry in Compton California. I do not actually go into Compton, but instead focus on “group dynamics,” which is a fancy way of saying I am in change of the Bible Study. There is a basic premise about having a Bible Study for a tutoring ministry. We believe that if we are to love the students that we are tutoring, we have to be growing in our love for God and each other. Let me take a minute to emphasize that. We need to be growing. Not staying consistent. If you are not growing, you are dying. If I am not growing, I am dying. Being consistent is being stale is being distasteful. Howard Hendricks, a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, has said that if you stop growing today you stop leading tomorrow. I need to continue growing in love for God and people or else I will not being able to lead effectively, which brings me back to the original topic.

For quite a while, months really, the leadership (i.e., those who have showed up most) has noticed that communication has been fairly poor amongst members other that directly in the “leadership.” We have wanted to change this, but have been dealing with other things, and really just dropping the ball. So yesterday the Bible Study Ministry and the Prayer Ministry (While I am here: why are these two groups separate? I just noticed how strange that is…) headed by the VP of the ministry Matt Shaw, was to get together to meet for the first time (we have had both of these, not up and running but existing, groups for months). But I get sick. So I give it the ol’ “heave-ho,” with an emphasis on the “heave.” I haven’t thrown up in years, so of course I am thinking, come ooon…I get sick for the first time in years on this day when we are to have a meeting that I have greatly desired all week and that we really have needed for some months? Come ooon…

I am not usually one to think spiritual opposition, but this instance really did deserve that consideration. If there is one thing that the adversary hates it is unity in the body of Christ. Unity in the body of Christ is representative of the unity of the Godhead. If there is one thing that the adversary wants to do, it is to destroy the image of God. He cannot destroy God so he settles for destroying his image, and his bride.

I wonder if this is the case in the crucifixion. There is an atonement theory called Ransom Atonement, which reasons that sinners are given over into the authority of Satan and that at the cross Jesus bought sinners from Satan. In this theory Satan did not understand that Jesus was going to rise from the grave and so God essentially pulled a fast one on Satan. This theory has been held by various Church fathers and more recently by C. S. Lewis. This is evinced in Lewis’ novel The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. However, most scholars hold to a Justification Atonement theory. And I think this is the correct answer.

There is a question for the justification theory. If Satan knew what was going to happen, that Jesus would save sinners, why would he have still had Jesus killed (I guess this assumes a free will theory and that Satan would not do what the Father told him to…Another theological debate for another time…)? I think it is safe to say that since the time that Satan could not be like God, he has wanted to destroy God. However, God is God and cannot be destroyed. But he did make quite a few creations in his image, male and female he created them. I think since the time man has been on earth Satan has been trying to destroy the image of God because of his hatred of God. He cannot destroy God, so he destroys what is made in his image.

When Jesus came on the scene Satan had a unique opportunity. He had the opportunity to not only destroy the image of God, but God in the flesh. It seems that the opportunity was too good to pass up.

Romans 1 talks about how God gave those who exchanged the glory of God for sin into further sin. It seems that God holds people back from further sin (See the case of Abimelech in Genesis 20:6, as well as 2 Thessalonians 2.), but that he has also given people into further sin. This is the horror of sinning against God. He is liable to stop restraining you and to instead let you go further and further into sin. This seems to be the case with Satan. God restrains the actions of Satan (Job 1) but a time is coming when this restrain will be lifted and Satan will be allowed to roam free (Revelation).

So, if God gives people into further and further sin, it seems likely that this will be the case with Satan as well. Romans 6 says that believers are no longer slaves to sin. This is not the case for Satan. He is an utter slave to sin, the greatest slave to sin.

I was watching a talk show a while ago. I forget the topic that was being discussed, but the man being interviewed said something that jogged my thinking in a serious way. He said, “There is no greater slavery than slavery to one’s own desires.” I was shocked at the utter spiritual truth of the statement. When one speaks of “free will,” one can only talk about freedom to sin, not freedom from sin.

So when the Father wanted to save the sinful world through the crucifixion of his Son, Satan was all too willing to do the dead, even though he knew what would result. God had given him over into sin. There was no way Satan could pass up this opportunity, the opportunity to destroy God.

Is it any coincidence then that when we have sought unity for months and more so recently that the adversary would make a move to prevent that? 2 Corinthians 2 speaks of how Paul and the Corinthian believers were not unaware of the schemes of Satan, namely to divide the believers. Let us be aware as well of his schemes, and make it our aim to seek the unity of the body of Christ. We must love each other and show that love to each other, or we will not truly have loved.





Made in the Image of the Three-in-One God

19 09 2009

If we today fell into the trap of believing the Christianity espoused by the media and politics of modern day America, we would be believing in a Gnostic Christianity. This Christianity has a divorce between the world of our beliefs and the world in which we live in. In it, it does not matter what you believe, because what you believe does not affect your actions. However, this is not the case with what the Bible sees faith as.

Famously, God says through James that faith without works is dead. It means nothing. And this has been the case since back in the Old Testament as well. In the book of Leviticus, God tells the people in chapter 25 “‘You shall not rule over him [poor countrymen] with severity, but are to revere your God.’” (v. 43) Here there is a direct link between how one treats their neighbor and their relationship with God. God had brought the people out of Egypt and had saved them from slavery there. Therefore they were to remember this in their treatment of their fellow countrymen and foreigners. They were not to treat anyone as they had been treated. The source of this was to be in their reverence of God who had brought them out of Egypt. It is here that we see the interlacing in God’s eyes of our faith and our treatment of other people, in our actions. We love and revere God and treat people based on this knowledge. The opposite will also be the case.

This Gnostic Christianity is a horrible farce. Our beliefs affect our actions, perhaps more deeply than they can ever realize. Our beliefs about God, false and true, also deeply affect our actions. There is no divide within a person between spiritual and physical. The person of the Bible is a whole being. God is a unity, a three-in-one person, and being made in his image, though we have emotions, and a spirit, and a body, we are one being. We ought not to divide ourselves, but to act as one person, believing and acting as one, and not dividing the two.





Becoming what we are

8 08 2009

A few weeks back one of the pastors at the church I go to was talking about how in the Christian life there is this wonderful expectation of becoming what we are. Lewis called this (I paraphrase) divine make believe. It is like this:

As a kid you may have played house with your brothers and sisters, or perhaps your friends. In this you pretend to be a grown up. Here a key issue is brought up, the issue of pretending. When one pretends to be a grown up, I do not mean that they make up wholly what it means to be a grown up. Essentially they imitate what they have seen other grownups down. Thus their pretend is a kind of imitation. By pretending to be a grownup they condition themselves to eventually “grow up.” This is why the end of the story Peter Pan (Disney’s version is different in tone) is sad. Peter does not want to grow up and so he ends up never being able to love. The choice to stay always young stunts his growth.

The Christian, in order to grow, is thus always pretending (as already defined as a form of imitation) to be a follower of Christ. There is this wonderful expectation of becoming what we are. We are already followers of Christ, and yet we yearn to be more so. Therefore we look at the example of Christ, and those who have followed him and imitate them. Paul told his readership to imitate him as he imitated Jesus.

We must therefore never say “I will never be ___, pure, innocent, able to witness, confident, acceptable, a real follower.” We may not act that way right now, but that is what we are. There is this wonderful expectation of becoming what we are. We need to remember that we have been rescued out of a sinful world and still live in that world, though the real world that we now live in is the kingdom of the Father. The Newsboys have a song called “Stay strong” that put this idea of perseverance well. “Stay Strong, You are not lost. Come on and fix your eyes ahead. There’s a new dawn to light our day, our day. You’ve gotta stay strong. You and I run, for the prize that lies ahead. We’ve come too far to lose our way, our way.” Admittedly, this song perhaps addresses tougher times more, and being confident in the path ahead when the times are rough, but it is useful none the less.

One last thing should be addressed. Action is required. This can take numerous forms and will really be dependent on circumstance, but I wish here to make certain that no one will think that this transformation will happen if nothing is done. This pretend, this divine make believe, this imitate must happen and be done by the person. Peter Pan did not grow up because he did not want to. Just because a person grows old does not mean that they have grown up. Even so will it be in the Christian life. One must look to Christ and imitate him or they will never become like Christ this side of eternity. As a defeatist, I feel it necessary to throw in the objection that some will bring up, “It is impossible to become like Christ at all.”

In order to answer this objection, I will move around it. Of course it is impossible to be perfect, but isn’t this objection completely beside the point and a tool of the devil. To me this brings up the question of one’s goal and motivation. Don’t we always want to become like the people we love and look up to? We play house and act like grow ups because we want to be like those people, like the people and parents that we love. Isn’t it beside the point to ask whether it is possible or not? Isn’t it more to the point to ask whether you love Christ and want to be like him?





Wonder

26 07 2009

Everything in this world is wonder filled. It is only by familiarity that the wonder disappears. We see something so often that it no longer intrigues us and causes to stop and catch our breath, or makes it so that we cannot speak.

One of the few things that cause me to do this is the night sky. It also brings forth from within me a hunger and a joy that I cannot describe. The best description I have is from the Chronicles of Narnia, a fierce joy. I can stare at the moon and stars for hours as they chart their way across the sky and not grow weary. The night sky observed stirs up so many emotions within me.

God created the stars and moon and sun and sky too, but the pinnacle of creation was reserved for man, both male and female, whom he made in his own image. In the true image of God he created them. I look at the night sky, but I do not look at people the same way. Do we look at people and regard them with wonder because we are looking at the very image of God? Do we show each and every person the respect they deserve as one who is made in the image of God? Or are they just the one blocking you from merging to take your exit?

Are we moved by creation, but not by the Creator?





Biography, or Gospel?

24 07 2009

I was thinking the other day while sitting in church about the Gospels. What are we reading or hearing when we go to them? There is nothing like their style in our modern literature that I can think of. There was a certain type of biography back then that they resemble called “bios,” (which is Greek for “life”). It is a type of biography that focuses on the highlights of a person’s life without going into all of the details. The reasoning is that the people hearing the “bios” only wanted to hear the things for which this person was worth listening for about. Therefore many things from a person’s life would not be included, like boring material. You might be dropped into the person’s life halfway through their life. This style is not like our current style of biography, where everything from birth to death is accounted for in chronological order (chronology was not critical for a “bios”).

All of this brings me to the titles that these Gospels have always had. The Gospel according to Matthew. The Gospel according to Mark. The Gospel according to Luke. The Gospel according to John. This begs the question as to the focus of the books. Is it Jesus, or is it the Gospel? (You might argue that to speak of one is to speak of the other.) I suspect that the focus is the Gospel, based on other books in the New Testament as well. As an example, the Book to the Hebrews presents some of the highest Christology of the New Testament because the people to whom it was written were in a great crisis. There was the threat that they would turn back to Judaism, and the only solution to that problem was a higher view of Christ.

This brings me to the approach that we (which as a Wall Street Journal writer says is a first person pronoun in journalism) have when we come to the Gospels. I too often come to the Gospels merely looking for information, a fact boast, as I would if I ever went to read a biography (which I don’t, because they are boring). The Gospels were not written merely to inform, but to change lives. They brought the Gospel, the Good News from God of salvation from sins through Jesus Christ.

All this is to say that we do things for a purpose, whether for good or for evil. We might as well come to the Gospels with the right purpose and mind set. We ought not to go to the Gospels to merely inform ourselves, but to submit ourselves to the good word, to be changed by the Word from God.





Israeli Elections

18 11 2008

This is another article that a friend of mine, Robby, and I wrote for our school’s paper. Israel is having elections for their Prime Minister and Knesset. I am interested in seeing how these turn out.

Enjoy.

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On Feb. 10, a new prime minister and Knesset (the ruling parliament) will be elected in Israel. This election may be more determinative for peace in the region than the U.S. presidential election. With projected instability in the region, Israeli news source Haaretz declared that President Obama would be a wartime president.

 

The electoral situation in Israel is tenuous. When Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert resigned on corruption charges, Tzipi Livni was nominated to fill the role. In Israel the president is a figurehead – it is the prime minister who has real control. The PM is not directly elected by the people. He/she is nominated by the ruling party of the Knesset, or ruling coalition if no party has a majority. The Knesset is elected by proportion. If 35 percent of the people vote for the Likud party, then 35 percent of the 120 seats in the Knesset go to the Likud party. The party with the most representation in the Knesset nominates the PM. If a coalition cannot be formed, the president calls for new elections.

When Livni was elected on Sept. 17 to fill the spot that Olmert was to vacate, she had 42 days to form a coalition. Failing in this, she asked President Shimon Peres to call for elections. General elections for the new Knesset and PM are scheduled for Feb. 10, 2009.

 

Power could very well switch hands when the elections take place. The three main parties in Israel are Labor, a dovish party; Likud, a center-right party; and Kadima, which was founded by Ariel Sharon when he broke away from Likud. Kadima has a commanding lead in the Knesset right now over all other parties, but this is likely to change. With Kadima and Likud even in news polls, the likely PM will either be Tzipi Livni from Kadima or former PM Benjamin Netanyahu from Likud. At stake in this election is peace in the Middle East.

 

The greatest concerns in this regard are peace between Israel and Palestine and Israel and Iran. Livni and Netanyahu have different approaches here. Livni is in charge of the Palestinian peace process and is willing to make compromises to achieve peace. Netanyahu is unwilling to make these compromises like  giving back land and splitting Jerusalem. Neither believes that Israel should have high-level negotiations with Iranian President Ahmadinejad. However, Netanyahu takes President Ahmadinejad more soberly. He does not believe negotiations are possible with a man who has called for the extermination of the Jews. Netanyahu also approves preemptive strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities. Such strikes are nothing new to Israel.

 

In 1981, Israel successfully accomplished Operation Opera, the destruction of Iraq’s nuclear facility. However, the distance to Iran would likely render any attack by Israel impossible without U.S. support. The distance to targets, air defenses, fortifications, probable lack of solid intelligence, and the inability to have aircraft return would render it a suicide mission with little chance of destroying all primary targets. Support from the U.S. also seems unlikely because of how the Arab world would react to the U.S. involvement with Israel.

 

Israel is on a time table of when they can act, between now and the likely timeframe of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons (perhaps in 2009-10). Israel must act before then. Peace has always been the critical issue. However, does the path to peace lie through negotiation and compromise, or will it be achieved through military might? How much compromise is too much? These are the questions Israel brings to their election and to which Americans also must pay attention to and answer.





Is the Bear Back? or CCCPutin

28 09 2008

A friend and I at school are really interesting in foreign events, especially what Russia and her allies have been doing recently.  So we wrote a piece for our school’s newspaper (it has not been printed yet). We, unfortunately, had to leave a lot of information out because of a maximum word count. The article is 600 words long and really needs to be about four times that length. But here it is for your enjoyment. (I may attach links to the information at some point in the future, when I get the time, so look for that. After all, I do want to asure you that the information I am looking at is credible.

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Is the Bear Back? or CCCPutin

 

Jonathan P. Wheeler & Robert J. Turtzer

 

The most significant change in Russo-World relations happened this summer when Russia violated Georgian’s sovereign territory. The world is a different place than it was before the conflict. The reaction of world leaders shows that much.

 

Europe is greatly concerned by Russia’s violation of Georgian borders. The Russo-Georgian conflict motivated Poland to sign a ballistic missile defense treaty with the United States. They had delayed for eighteen months, but when Russia invaded Georgia they quickly signed the treaty, with additional clauses including mutual defense. Poland wanted direct US intervention for fear that NATO’s reaction would be too slow. They wanted help to come while they were still alive.

 

Russia has caused European leaders to reconsider their dealings with Russia. The EU called an emergency meeting of its 27 leaders to reevaluate where they stand with Russia. Separately, Germany has declared that they do not want to be dependent on Russia for oil and have instead turned to Iran. The biggest reconsideration, however, is happening in the Ukrainian government right now. The ruling, pro-Western ‘Orange’ coalition, established in 2004, has dissolved due to internal disputes over whether they should ally with Russia.

 

How did it come to this? Russia violated and occupied Georgia’s sovereign territory, but the escalation of tensions did not stop there. The US, already having ties with Georgia, but unwilling to give Russia casus belli, decided to show support by sending relief aid to Georgia with elements of the US 6th fleet, including the fleet’s flagship, the USS Mount Whitney. Prime Minister Putin’s vowed “response” to this was to land strategic (nuclear capable) bombers in Venezuela and schedule naval maneuvers with them for this winter. Escalating tensions further, Venezuelan President Chavez has, in an unrelated incident, expelled the US ambassador to Venezuela as well as recalled his own until a new US President is chosen. To top everything off, Russia has recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, has stationed soldiers there, and has signed a military cooperation treaty with them. As Medvedev said, Russia is not afraid of another Cold War.

 

If Russia has no fear of pitting itself against the West, what could they do? The Cold War is over; are they even a threat now? The answer is that they could be. The West is worried that Russia will use its economy as a weapon. In January of 2006 and 2007, Russia, in disputes with Belarus, Georgia, and Ukraine, cut off oil to them in the dead of winter. Russia has also opposed sanctions against Iran, has signed multi-billion dollar military agreements with them, and is helping Iran build their nuclear facility in Bushehr. Finally, Russia, which has increased its military budget for next year by 25 percent, could initiate another Georgia incident in its “sphere of influence,” most likely Ukraine or Moldova. This is one reason why Ukraine is likely to elect leaders who will ally with Russia.

 

If you have not heard of these important events, that is understandable. The information could not have come at a worse time. At least four major events are distracting us from seeing what Russia has done. Events such as the 2008 Olympics, Hurricane Ike, economic woes, and the ultimate information black hole of them all, election season 2008.

 

So is the world headed to a new, different kind of Cold War? It depends on who we elect as President and how the EU, UN, and NATO decide to respond. The next few months will be key. But if I were you, I would buy a parka because it is likely to get cold this winter.








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