April 23, 2011 § Leave a Comment
I am writing this on Easter Sabbath — the Sabbath during which Jesus Christ rested in the grave, dead to the world and to heaven, until he was resurrected early Sunday morning. I want to invite you to discover God on your own terms this Easter. By that I mean you should reason out for yourself who God is for you, why you believe in Him, and what that means for your life as you see it from this day forward.
It is vitally important that each person who calls himself a believer in God, or an atheist if you will, know exactly why it is they take that stance and how that decision has affected them. If they are just blindly going to church, and following a faith they believe only superficially, they will have wasted one of their most important faculties: that of free will. For I believe that faculty is a gift from God, and it was given to us specifically so that we may choose to acknowledge Him — or not.
To help guide you in your discovery of God on your own terms, I have selected three videos below that I’d like you to watch. These videos may be unsettling for some, but they are important, because for one thing, they will help distance your belief in God from organized religion (which I think is key in getting closer to God), and for another thing, they express the thinking of two very lucid people, who have synthesized for us the problems that arise when a church gets too big for its britches — when it gets big enough to pass laws, torture and kill people.
You may realize that I point my finger at the Catholic church, but I do not blame them directly, or say that other churches are better. Any one church that might have been in their place would have acted the same way; make no mistake about that. A rose by any other name would still have the same painful thorns. Once a church gets big enough to become an institution with worldwide influence, they will abuse their power. If absolute power corrupts absolutely, then the church is not immune from corruption, as history states in horrid details about every such church organization.
I often think atheists are the best people, in a sense. Whatever they believe, most of them have reasoned it out and have to live with their decision, day in and day out. They live their lives with the painful knowledge that they will end within the span of 70 short years, more or less, and they will be gone, completely, when they die. If they do something good, they do it because they think it’s right, not because they expect to go to heaven for it, or because they want to expunge their sins through it. If they’re decent people, and most of them are, they do it because it’s their nature to be so, not because their Bible tells them so, or their church commands it. If you’re being good or decent because you expect to go to heaven, I’ve got news for you — you probably won’t get there. God doesn’t want people who do things because they expect something back from Him. He wants people who do good and decent things because it’s their nature to do them. Therefore, I suggest we all start learning a thing or two from atheists.
I hope you’ve taken the time to watch these videos, and will take some more time this Easter weekend to think things over. May you awake one day soon with a newfound personal perspective on your faith, on God, and your life from this point forward.
March 28, 2009 § 2 Comments
Some of the most beautiful promises of reassurance I know of are contained within this psalm:
“A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.” (Psalm 91:7)
“For He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” (Psalm 91:11,12)
“I will rescue him; I will protect him.” (Psalm 91:14)
Aren’t those promises amazing? I don’t know about you, but shivers run down my spine when I read them. To think, God will personally command His angels to protect me completely, no matter what the circumstances! All that He asks in return is:
- Make Him my dwelling place (Psalm 91:9)
- Love Him (Psalm 91:14)
- Acknowledge His name (Psalm 91:14)
That’s not too much to ask, is it? Of course, the key is to dwell in the Lord, as verse 9 says. How does one do that though? It’s got to be a symbolic statement, one that likely refers to keeping our minds on God, all day, every day, and inviting Him into our lives. It’s a natural extension of that second thing we must do in order to qualify for His full protection, which is to love Him, as verse 14 above says. Or, as another Christian puts it, to dwell in the Lord is to keep His word in our minds all day — to study the Bible carefully and to meditate upon it. Once we love Him and dwell in Him, it’s only natural that we acknowledge His name, or that we speak about Him to others, and give Him credit for all the blessings He bestows upon us.
The wonderful thing about God is that He loves us so much He’ll protect us even when we don’t love Him. He’ll bless us even when we curse Him. He is truly amazing. I’ve heard stories of people who were atheists or pagans, and yet God protected them in terribly dangerous situations. What do you think happened afterwards? Many became Christians. They began to believe in Him, to love Him, and to acknowledge His name publicly. They realized He exists, and He watches out for all His children, even though He may not always answer our prayers the way we expect. Yet if only we could see His angels at our side when in dire circumstances, we would know He never fails to deliver on His promises.
He doesn’t falter. Only we do, and that’s the hard part to accept, isn’t it? The Bible is full of God’s promises, and yet we have a hard time believing them, because we either don’t think He, who created the entire Universe, has the power to help us, or because we think He slighted us in the past when we prayed for something and didn’t get it. But that’s our pride that stands in the way, isn’t it? We can’t seem to be able to swallow it down and to accept the fact that God did what was ultimately best for us, even if it wasn’t the outcome we expected. Let’s face it, sometimes, when those arrows come our way, as verse 7 says above, we may be among the ones that fall, not among the ones that are left standing. Don’t ask me why — only God knows that. The thing to do is to put it in His hands and let Him figure things out. Let the chips fall where they may, knowing He is in control.
I think that’s the hardest lesson to learn.
November 29, 2008 § 1 Comment
Two years or so ago, I first heard that the Ark of the Covenant had been found in Israel, near Jerusalem. I wasn’t sure quite what to make of it, and I figured that time would offer more evidence that would help sway the balance in either direction.
For me, that time has arrived. I now believe that it’s quite likely that the Ark of the Covenant was found, deep in a cave near Jerusalem, underneath the very spot where Jesus Christ was crucified for our sins. From what I understand, Jesus’ very blood came down from the cross and found its way, through a crack in the ground, to the very Mercy Seat of the Ark, where it acted as an atonement for our sins. The crack was formed when the ground shook at His death, and then closed again when He was resurrected and the earth shook once more. I’m not sure how to put this, other than it makes sense to me. It’s like the pieces of a Biblical puzzle are coming together.
I offer the following information for you to consider. You don’t even need to be sure of what you see or hear at this point. I believe that we will get more evidence in the near future to support or refute these findings, and at that time, the evidence will be conclusive.
The person who I believe quite possibly saw the Ark of the Covenant was Mr. Ron Wyatt, an American from Tennessee who conducted an extensive search for it in a cave system known as Zedekiah’s Cave, near Jerusalem. He financed all his trips to Israel himself, out of his own savings, and that’s what makes it more authentic for me. After his death in 1999, an organization that he formed, named Wyatt Archeological Research, continued his work. I can’t vouch for that organization, since some of the things they’ve been doing since then seem to refute Wyatt’s original findings.
There is, as is expected, plenty of controversy surrounding Wyatt’s work. After all, the Ark of the Covenant would be a very important find, of tremendous Biblical significance. His Wikipedia page doesn’t inspire confidence. Then again, there are plenty of people who support him, some of which refute the claims made on Wikipedia and say that any attempts to correct his Wikipedia page are always erased. What I can say is that to me, Ron Wyatt seems like an honest, God-fearing man (from the videos I’ve seen of him), and he looks like he truly believed what he found was the genuine article, so I think he deserves to be heard, and his evidence considered.
Certainly, what I’d like to see happen is that the Ark of the Covenant (if indeed it is the Ark of the Covenant) is revealed for the world to see. Perhaps there are good reasons to keep it hidden still, such as the possibility of a holy war erupting over it — I don’t know — but all I can say is that all this secrecy fuels speculation, and it’s not right.
This video from David Gates gives a good overview of the Ark of the Covenant find. Watch it from minute 10 to minute 15.
There are many videos of Ron Wyatt on YouTube. I chose two of them to show you here. First, there is a video of Wyatt made in 1999 (the year when he died), where he talks about the Ark of the Covenant. The second video is also of Wyatt, and here he talks about the dried blood sample that he recovered from the Ark, and of what he found when he sent it to a lab for analysis.
What I find amazing about the blood analysis, if true, is that Jesus’ blood only had 24 chromosomes, 23 from his mother, and a single chromosome from a divine source. It certainly make sense, from both a Biblical and scientific view, if you believe that Jesus was conceived through the Holy Spirit, and not through a sexual act.
Apparently there are people who are actively trying to discredit Ron Wyatt. Some have even gone as far as try try and destroy his archeological findings. His two sons gave a talk in Israel recently, and they show, first hand, how others have gone out of their way to destroy what Wyatt has found there. Some are even trying to extract the Ten Commandments out of the Ark, for reasons unclear to me.
Ron Wyatt’s sons, Danny and Ronnie, also talked about the six Levites that were sent in to retrieve the Ark after the Israeli authorities were informed of the find. Apparently, all of them died when they approached it, and Wyatt was called in to retrieve their bodies. Their deaths made front page news at the time, though the official story said they had died by driving their car into a field of landmines.
Look, I’m not saying Wyatt’s findings are conclusive. Wyatt could have been overzealous, and, desiring to find what he had been searching for, he could have glossed over certain things that might have led him somewhere else. Who knows… But what if what he found really is the Ark of the Covenant? I think that possibility deserves our consideration, especially when you consider that his findings have spurred so much discussion, and have convinced so many others to go and search for themselves in those areas.
There are many agendas at play here. Some, are trying to find the truth. Some are trying to hide it. And others are trying to destroy it. And that’s what I think makes this seem like the genuine article. You know the old saying — where there’s smoke, there’s bound to be fire. There wouldn’t be so much controversy over this if there weren’t some truth to it.
May 28, 2008 § Leave a Comment
I could be uncaring and call this psalm “the prayer of the emo kid”, but I have to recognize it for what it is: the uttering of someone in the depths of depression, someone who’s lost all hope and doesn’t see a way out.
The subtitle offers somewhat of a clue, by attributing the psalm to “the sons of Korah… Poem for Heman the native-born”. If this was indeed a psalm written for someone else, that might explain the overly dramatic stylings. At the same time, the sons of Korah are indicated as authors on many psalms. Whether they were the same people, or whether they were the descendants of a certain family, they were still closely associated with religious service, and thus should have known better than to describe God in these terms, even if it was done to humor a depressed, suffering individual.
Another clue is offered by the NJB. In the footnotes, it says: “With this anguished prayer, compare the complaints of Job.” When you put it that way, yes, it’s quite similar to what the Book of Job contains. Then again, we have no other information to place this psalm or Job’s writings before or after each other — although it is commonly thought that Job’s writings are the oldest in the Bible. And even if these two are intended to be similar in composition and effect, it’s still not right. God rebuked Job for his complaining, and Job admitted he was wrong in wailing so much. Why then replicate troublesome writing in this later psalm? It makes no sense.
The only good things I can say about it are found in verses 9 and 13. I’ll quote them below:
- “I call to you, Yahweh, all day, I stretch out my hands to you.”
- “But, for my part, I cry to you, Yahweh, every morning my prayer comes before you.”
That is indeed what we must do, every day, and especially when we don’t understand what’s happening to us. We must persist in our prayers and continue to hope for an answer and salvation from God. He promises He will respond, and He also promises us the ultimate salvation. It’s within our right to ask it of Him.
March 23, 2008 § 1 Comment
Christ is risen!
This is a photo I took yesterday during Easter service at my church (CMC). Service started on a somber note, with the cross enveloped in a black canvas sheet. At the end of the sermon, the pastor took off the black sheet to reveal the white base of the cross and the many bouquets of fresh flowers that you see in the photo. Deacons then walked in with the baloons, we sang the closing hymn, and we were each given a baloon as we left the sanctuary to go downstairs for our usual Sabbath potluck. The sermon focused on the celebration of our new life in Christ, which is in stark contrast with our “dead” state before salvation, so the imagery really drove home that point.
February 9, 2008 § 6 Comments
The Israelites have returned to their lands after a period of captivity, and they are asking for God’s help in this psalm. They feel that they are still not right with Him, and are begging for His forgiveness. What makes this psalm interesting is the supposed dialog between God and the people of Israel.
God replies in verses 8 through 13. Verse 8 says:
“I am listening. What is God’s message? Yahweh’s message is peace for His people, for His faithful, if only they renounce their folly.”
It sort of leaves you wondering what these people’s “folly” is, doesn’t? Remember what Solomon wrote once? “Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom,” he said. I imagine this “folly” of theirs must be the opposite of wisdom. They must give it up and move toward the opposite side of the spectrum, toward wisdom. To do that, they must begin to fear God. Verse 9 confirms this. The pieces are starting to fall into place, aren’t they?
“His saving help is near for those who fear Him, His glory will dwell in our land.”
God is waiting for these people to start fearing Him, and He will right then offer His help, which is described quite beautifully in verses 10 through 13. You might think this “fear” that keeps getting mentioned here is some sort of unnatural fright that God inspires in believers. Not at all. This psalm is a great example of true repentance, because it shows its two important stages, which show whether it (the repentance) is genuine or not.
Stage 1 is asking for forgiveness and for help. That’s done in verses 4 through 7. Forgiveness is implied here, and that’s the way it is. God is ready to forgive us as soon as we ask for it. His love is boundless. But our repentance isn’t complete unless Stage 2 occurs, and that’s where “fear” comes into play. What the Bible means by “fear” is that we should be concerned about God when we are next faced with a choice to sin. We should be afraid of causing Him pain and suffering. Because He suffers every time we sin, and He suffers even more after He’s forgiven us and we commit the same sin, again and again.
That’s what “fear” means. It means having enough respect for God to think about Him when we are faced with choosing to sin and fulfilling our trite, flesh-driven desires. Do we have enough respect for Him? Do we fear Him enough? Do we realize that we’re hurting our all-powerful Creator, who gave us life and who could take it away in an instant? Do we realize we’re hurting the One being that is always ready to help and bless us, no matter what, if only we’d turn to Him?
That’s the question this psalm poses. It’s a powerful question, and one that we all need to ask ourselves.
September 16, 2007 § Leave a Comment
This is a prayer said at the Feast of Shelters. The author recalls God’s deliverance of the people of Israel from the bondage of Egypt, His request that the people worship no strange gods, and his promise of abundant blessings if only they remain His children. Of course, as one almost expects when people are involved, they do not heed God’s request, and thus do not partake in His blessing, only to incur more subjugation, after which they cry out to God for help and wonder why their prayers fall on deaf ears.
I’m not sure whether the author of the psalm refers to the present or the past when he talks about the nation of Israel. I’m leaning toward the present — well, present for the author, not for us. Either way, this psalm, in particular verses 6-16, can be seen as a response from God to prayers like those in psalms 78, 79 and 80. Is it any wonder that the peoples’ prayers go unanswered when their behavior — and that of the nation as a whole — does not change? How can one expect favor from God when they show that they hate him through their behavior, as verse 15 says: “Those who hate Yahweh would woo His favour.”
It’s easy for us, in the here and now, to sit in judgment of those people, but we would do well to remember that the phrase “strange gods” doesn’t refer just to some silly carved figurines that people might have in their homes. It also refers to other things that take our focus away from God, such as money, jobs, possessions, lusts, etc. We’ve got plenty of those these days, including the silly carved figurines… It’s incredibly hard to pull away from those “strange gods” and focus on the One True God. But without pulling away, we get nowhere. By continually engaging in behaviors or actions that condemn us in the eyes of God, we continue to seal our doom, as verse 15 also says.
If only we would pull away, God says: “I would feed you on pure wheat, would give you your fill of honey from the rock.” Abundance beyond our dreams would await us in the form of blessings from God. A well-known New Testament verse says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these shall be added onto you,” referring to the worldly things we so desperately desire at the expense of our eternal life. If only we would!
April 17, 2007 § Leave a Comment
It’s not often that my entire post is made up of a quote, but I really wanted to post this. The author is Joe Crews. You may or may not have heard of him. He was a good Christian man, a prolific writer, and the founder of Amazing Facts. Here’s what he wrote about our Lord Jesus Christ:
“I invite you to consider with me a Man — the most incredible Man who ever lived. The facts of His life are enough to arrest the attention of anyone to give it careful consideration.
This incredible Man was born without a human father; in a nameless, lower-class family during a housing shortage; under a set of emergency circumstances that made a cowshed His place of birth. This Man grew up on the dirt floor of a tiny, over-crowded home, in an obscure village in Palestine. And young people, He never rode a bike, nor swam in a pool, nor watched TV, nor talked into a telephone, nor listened to a radio! But when this unique person became thirty years of age, He spent just three years in carving out a destiny that will never be forgotten and around which millions have clustered. He had no formal education. He wrote no books. He received no worldly honors. He held no office. He owned no home and frankly stated that even though the “foxes have their holes and the birds of the air have their nests, the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head.”
He never accepted a penny for His services. He espoused the underdog to the disgust of the ruling class. He never traveled more than two hundred miles from the place of His birth. He dared to expose wickedness in the face of terrific Roman ruthlessness, Jewish hatred, and the incendiary political situation of Palestine that was destined to crush Him. He was executed as a criminal after helping and healing and blessing countless thousands of people as no organization of His day could possibly do. They gambled for the only piece of property He owned, a seamless outer garment. Neither He nor His family owned a cemetery plot, or a grave, and so His closest friends borrowed a cave in which to lay His body.
In the ensuing years millions upon millions have come to worship Him, and many have laid down their lives for Him because of Who He was. This Man loved as no man has ever loved. As we look at His unique character, it is so vast that it is like the starry heavens. When you gaze you look deeper and deeper, and it becomes more wonderful all the time. We stand and admire. We look. We esteem, and we are startled as was the Centurion, who was responsible for His crucifixion, when he exclaimed, “Truly this was the Son of God.”
We turn to Matthew 21:10, and we see there that Jerusalem did not know its Lord, but when Jesus came riding into the city on a colt, the people turned out by the multitudes and said, “Who is this?”
“Who is this?” Many today are asking the same question. “Who is this Man, this incredible Man, the Lord Jesus Christ?” In reality, this is not just a man. This is an incredible God who because of love left heaven and came to this earth and inherited the degradation and terror that sin had wrought for 4,000 years and took upon Himself a body and died on the cross for our sins.
This Man has changed the world by His ability to change the human heart. Because of this, Jesus has the ability to change the world. An unknown author wrote these interesting words: “I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched and all the navies that ever sailed and all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together have not affected life on earth as powerfully as this one solitary life, the life of Jesus Christ.
Jesus changed the world because He can change human life beyond recognition. There are many religions in the world. There are the cults of the Orient with all of their pathways to some “Nirvana.” There are the African voodoo worshipers. There are spiritist revelations, and the psychologic cults for those who are more sophisticated. Take your pick. But no religion in the world has claimed to do what this incredible Man has! This incomparable Christ does today, exactly what He did in April of A.D. 29. He takes a man and cleanses him of his guilt and sin. He transforms his life. He puts within that life His Spirit so that a man becomes a “new creation.” And then, He gives him a sense of self-worth and guarantees a hope of resurrection and eternal life. What religion in the world claims to do this?
In John 9 there was a man healed by Jesus who was blind from birth. The Pharisees got hold of this story and seized the man. They interrogated him and asked him all sorts of questions about Jesus. He became so shaken by it that, finally, he said, “I don’t know anything about this man; but one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.” Isn’t this enough, dear friends? Any Christian will say the same thing. Thank God for the wonderful revelation in Jesus Christ.
If Christ were a mere man, this would pose no problem. We could dispense with Him as the psychologist often does. Philosophize Him away if you wish. Do what you will with this historical person if He is not divine. If He is a great teacher, destroy His books; but if He is more than a great teacher, look out!
If Jesus is what He said He was, then, my friend, be careful! If Jesus did come from heaven, you are treading on sacred ground. Your entire destiny is wrapped up with who Jesus really was. If Jesus is divine, then there rests in the hands of every human being an entire destiny that rises or falls on our relationship to this incredible Man. It is the world’s grandest opportunity if you accept it. It is a most fearful responsibility.”
January 27, 2007 § Leave a Comment
The author of this psalm remembers the times of God’s tremendous miracles — the times (then) of old, when God had delivered the people of Israel out of Egypt, and took them through the Red Sea as if it were dry land. He wonders if God will ever act like that on behalf of Israel.
It’s obvious the nation of Israel was going through hard times when this psalm was written, and this psalm is a plea for action from God. The author is afraid that the Lord abandoned them forever, and His anger with them will not cease. It’s interesting that the psalm is open-ended. There is no final plea, simply a remembrance of the times of old: “You guided your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.” It befits the psalm. It gives the impression that the author expects God to make the next step, whatever that will be.
The questions asked in this psalm apply to all of us. After we do something bad, after we sin, we feel terrible, too. We begin to wonder, was this it? Has God now abandoned us? Will He never again “show favour” to us? But the answers depend purely on us, you see. That’s because God is constant. He always loves us. His anger with us ceases. He wants to show us favor. But we must do our part. Even if we have fallen, we must continue to come to Him. We must ask confess our sins in prayer and ask forgiveness.
Then the healing process begins. As we continue to walk with Him, we feel His presence in our lives once more. We begin to discern the blessings He pours out on us. We feel His love encircling us, protecting us from danger, taking us through our days and strengthening us. We begin to know He exists again, and His wonderful Holy Spirit makes its dwelling place in our souls once more. But we must stay close to Him. The moment we stray, we fall again, and depending on the gravity of our sin, we must start from scratch again. It’s a painful process for us, and it’s even more painful for God, because He loves us and every one of our sins hurts Him, no matter how little they are. The most important thing though, is to continue in our walk with Him. If we seek Him earnestly, we will find Him. He will be there for us, always.