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2 hours ago

The Goodness of God

Does God allow evil?

No. Jesus Christ is God's TOTAL disallowance of evil. (Reread this line 10 times-- chew on it, ponder it, absorb it).

Jesus came to heal those who are brokenhearted - - FROM evil, to preach deliverance to those held captive - - BY evil, to restore the sight of those blinded - - WITH evil, and to set at liberty those that are bruised - - THROUGH evil. Jesus’ heart is always to bless and protect us. “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” Lk. 10:19.

Jesus never tolerated, used or allowed evil in any form.

He defeated what is called “natural evil” when He rebuked a storm which threatened to sink the boat in which He was traveling.

He defeated “demonic evil” hundreds, if not thousands, of times by casting out spirits of infirmity, insanity and deformity.

He protected an adulteress from “social evil” by keeping her from being murdered by other men.

He battled “religious evil” constantly as He rebuked the false religion of His day which blocked people from entering the gate of truth.

He overcame the “material evil” of lack by multiplying loaves, transforming water into wine and finding needed finances in the mouth of a fish.

Lastly, Jesus defeated the “ultimate evil” by raising others and Himself from the dead. HE CONQUERED DEATH!

Whenever Jesus was not allowed to deliver others from evil, He marveled at their unbelief which kept them from receiving deliverance. When He instructed the disciples to pray “this way,” the heart of Jesus’ prayer was His statement in the Greek imperative that His Heavenly Father does and will “deliver us from evil.”

I hope these verses will help lift Jesus up in all our eyes as God’s ultimate gift to vanquish all evil. God gave His all to us. Never ask again, “Why does God allow evil?” He doesn’t. To believe He does ignores, dishonors and maligns the blood, work, sacrifice and wonderful name of Jesus.
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10 hours ago

The Goodness of God

How should we read the Gospels in certain passages which make it seem like Jesus is approving of Old Testament ritualistic requirements?

Here is an example.

"Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift." Matthew 5:23-24.

Someone could read the above passage and come away thinking that we should still have altars upon which to present offerings and sacrificial gifts. Or, they might take the view that Jesus was speaking just to the Jews of His day, and that His Gospel teachings, prior to His death on the cross, were Old Testament teachings and have no value or relevance for us since we are under a different covenant.

But, this is far too "brittle" a reading of Matthew 5:23. It lacks nuance and recognition of Jesus' subtext. We need to loosen our death grip on myopic "context" and instead seek instead the eternal "subtext" of what Jesus is trying to teach all men today, here, and now. If we read this passage by the dead letter, then the dead letter is all we will ever see. But, if we read looking for Jesus' heart, then Jesus' heart is all we will ever see. This is called devotional reading.

The heart of Jesus here is simply that we be reconciled with our brother BEFORE engaging in prayer, worship, or spiritual service. That's a beautiful thing, a concept just as applicable to us now as it was to the Jews then.

Jesus is essentially saying, in modern parlance, "Don't hate your brother and then sing a praise song, voice a prayer, or share a word of grace. Reconcile your heart to forgiveness that your prayers be not hindered by hypocrisy or half-heartedness."

This passage is not at all about building "physical altars" and presenting gifts of "animal sacrifices." Go for the subtext. Our heart is the New Testament altar from which we pray and worship. Our sacrifices to God under the New Testament are our ready hearts and willing minds (Romans 12:1-2).

Jesus knew that all men have their own types of symbolic altars of devotion and symbolic gifts which they bring to the Lord. The verse is not about the form of those things but about their inner devotional function. Rather, the verse is about about establishing peace and reconciliation between brothers before engaging in spiritual service.

We so need to read with greater fluidity. Let's seek to understand Jesus' core heart message in each of these passages. Then the Gospels will come alive.
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Over the first thirty nine chapters of the book of Job, he and his three friends found every way conceivable to either blame God or, in the alternative, to justify God for all the evil they accused God of sending Job's way-- evil which killed all of Job's children, evil which destroyed all his possessions, and evil which afflicted all his flesh.

Only in the last two chapters, when Job actually beheld God's presence, after which Job put his hand over his own mouth, and told himself to shut-the-heck-up because he finally realized he knew NOTHING of God's true goodness, did Job then get totally healed and restored two times over.

Makes you wonder what wonders the Lord would and could perform over our lives if we would just put out hands over our mouths and stop accusing him of the evil coming our way.

Jesus is "light and in Him is no darkness-- at all." I John 16. What is we do not get about that New Testament conceptual upgrade. Why don't just fully download that truth into our innermost parts and let it do its curative work. Instead, we still go trolling for trouble in the Old Testament by looking for verses which negate that absolute and awe-inspiring concept gloriously gifted to us by the beloved John, the one who routinely laid his head in Jesus' heart, the apostle who could only refer to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved.
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Many today are demanding that the Bible prove itself as divinely inspired and authentic. The motives of its writers are challenged. The legitimacy of the cannon is questioned, and its truths tarnished.

However, I believe that the real issue this raises is an epistemological one rather than an empirical one, that is to say, "HOW do we KNOW anything about anything when it comes to Scripture?" Some are now demanding that natural reasoning empirically prove what many others believe to be a supernaturally inspired document. And that can't work.

If we carried that same guideline to it's logical extreme, very little documentation of distant history would be credible beyond an educated guess, which by its nature always leaves room for a reasonable doubt. We can usually insert some level of reasonable doubt into anything we ourselves haven't directly eye-witnessed. The fact that Jesus even actually walked the earth in supernatural power can't be proven empirically beyond the writings a few witnesses who claim to have seen him or heard about Him in His day.

As a lawyer, given time to prepare, I could cross examine and shred most any ancient historical document as dubious and of limited reliability IF I used strictly natural reasoning and empirical standards of proof. Eyewitness testimony today has been empirically proven by psychologists to be notoriously unreliable.

History is basically just sketchy hearsay, providing a basis for educated guessing. Nothing ancient can be proved beyond all empirical doubt. It is certainly interesting hearsay, but it is ultimately opinion-based and largely un-provable. History is continually rewritten, challenged, disputed and adjusted, with absolute consensus being the rarest of things. Obviously, the more recent the history, the more it allows for video and and audio confirmation, but even these are capable of being forged or misinterpreted.

As far as the Bible though, we have no such confirmation other than the eyewitness documents and the hearsay of the day. This is why hearsay in a court of law is inadmissible. And even if we could meticulously establish the chain of custody of every Scripture from pen to scroll to now, it would still depend ultimately on the hearsay accounts of the writers and preservers of the texts, all of which are not provable.

The ancients didn't have evidence lockers, video tape cameras recording all the Scribes' actions or meticulous peer review procedures. The empirical proof many ask for in is ultimately impossible to provide, not only for the Bible but for any ancient sacred document.

Authentication has to come from another source. All any Bible writer had was inspired faith. Or, as Kierkegaard famously termed it, it was a "leap of faith" into the arena of divine things, an arena where empiricism and logic are secondary spices, but are not the primary meat in the stew.

So, when it comes to epistemology (how we KNOW anything to be true), I subscribe to Henri Bergson's Vitalism, which essentially says that there are two types of knowledge-- 1) relative knowledge obtained through our natural faculties which is always subject to change, and 2) intuitive apprehension of eternal truth which is not subject to change. The latter "intuitive truth" is the only way any eternal truth can be grasped, by an immediate and spontaneous apprehension of it.

Bergson believed that we are far more than the sum of our parts. Logic and empirical reasoning are lesser parts of our thinking because we have transcendent thinking skills which greatly exceed these rational sub-parts. There is a growing movement today to establish the legitimacy of abductive (gut-led intuition) reasoning as greater than either deductive or inductive reasoning.

This tension has always been present in most every discipline. Platonic intuition versus cold Aristotelian logic. Jungian epiphany versus Freudian reason. Quantum unpredictability versus Rules-based Newtonian Physics. This is why Einstein said imagination is more important than intelligence. He also said intuition was a sacred gift that reason was to serve, not lead.

So here is my bottom line. I have studied how the Scriptures were providentially formed, but that's not why I believe them. I have a ten volume set of the Ante-Nicene fathers which tracks the providential recognition and growing dependence on the books now contained in the New Testament as they developed in the first 300 years after Christ, but that is not why I believe them. I also have numerous books and articles on the formation of Scripture, hermeneutical principles and apologetics which trace the fingerprints of providential purpose on the formation of the New Testament, but that's not why I believe them.

Here is why I accept Scriptures. Decades ago, I had a direct encounter with the Holy Spirit where I directly "apprehended" the foundational importance and supernatural vitality of Scriptures. And they have blessed me bountifully ever since.

So, here is my point. The authority of Scripture can't primarily come from the demands of our natural reasoning, just like our faith in Jesus can't be reduced to "prove it" theorems of logic. This is the leap of faith. Jesus certainly showed His view of empirical demands for proof in His incident with doubting Thomas.

"The other disciples therefore said unto Thomas, We have seen the Lord . But he said unto them , EXCEPT I shall SEE in his hands the print of the nails , and PUT my finger into the print of the nails , and THRUST my hand into his side , I will NOT BELIEVE [sounds like high rationalism to me].

And after eight days again his disciples were within , and Thomas with them : then came Jesus , the doors being shut , and stood in the midst , and said , Peace be unto you . Then saith he to Thomas , Reach hither thy finger , and behold my hands ; and reach hither thy hand , and thrust it into my side : and BE NOT FAITHLESS , but believing [here Jesus calls Thomas' demand for empirical proof FAITHLESS].

And Thomas answered and said unto him , My Lord and my God . Jesus saith unto him , Thomas , because thou hast seen me , thou hast believed : BLESSED are they that have NOT SEEN , and YET have BELIEVED [hardly a ringing endorsement for Thomas' empiricism]." John 20:25-29.

Of course, WITHOUT Scripture, we would know nothing, nada, zippo, that is to say precisely squat about Jesus and the kingdom of love. Oh, we might have a vague impression, like the Greeks did, of an "unknown god." But, we would know little to nothing of Jesus.

So, just as we need a direct intuitive apprehension of Jesus as the son of the living God we also need a direct apprehension of whether Scriptures carry a unique supernatural element of authoritative inspiration. For me, I had a direct apprehension, epiphany and intuition from the Holy Spirit that Scriptures contain the exceeding great and precious promises of God which provide us all things for life and Godliness.

Each believer can experience this direct apprehension for themselves where the Holy Spirit actually confirms within their hearts that the Scriptures are unique and foundational for their faith. But it doesn't stop there. The believer must continue to yield to the Holy Spirit as the agent of Scriptural translation. The result will be a heightened sense of things, a better rationality that incorporates sacred intuition, abductive awe, and spontaneous epiphany.

"Intelligence" is a term no longer reserved just for academics. Intelligence is instead expanded to include "emotional" intelligence, "visceral" intelligence, and "Spiritual" intelligence. Sure reason and rationality have their part in our being, but only a part. They need to blend with with the other transcendent human qualities mentioned above.
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I still refernce the bible when sharing Christ with others especially unbelievers..

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Does God hand out "permission slips" to commit evil?

Many say that while God doesn't commit evil, He certainly ALLOWS it. Some go so far as to claim that Satan, prior to committing ANY evil act on the earth, must first go to God and get explicit APPROVAL. In other words, Satan must get a specific "permission slip" from God for every evil he commits. Calvinism, Judaism and Islam all believe in this horrible dynamic.

So let me get this straight. If my daughter gets raped, while your daughter does not, then the reason is that God specifically permitted my daughter's destruction but not yours. My daughter's rapist obtained a precise permission slip from God whereas your daughter's would-be rapist didn't.

WHAT? How is that ANY different from just saying God caused it to begin with. If God's "USDA stamp of approval" is needed for every evil to happen, then evil HAS to come from Him.

Under this line of reasoning, I couldn't even think of evil to begin with unless God explicitly permitted/ordained/decreed that I think of that particular evil. And, in fact, the founder of Calvinism, John Calvin, believed this very thing--- that nobody can conceive of any particular evil UNLESS God first expressly puts that evil thought in their mind to begin with. Under this view, there is NO difference between CAUSING and ALLOWING evil.

CRAZY! THIS IS THE ISAIAH 5:20 INFECTION (woefully calling good evil and evil good) IN ITS MOST SICKENING FORM!

This is so unworthy of God, of Jesus, of the Father, of the Holy Spirit. God has done EVERYTHING to DISALLOW all evil. It's called the Cross of Christ, the disarming of all evil described in Colossians 2:15.

God is now expecting us on earth to finally realize and believe this. (Hebrews 10:13). In the believing of it, we will then see every form of evil has ALWAYS ALREADY been extinguished by the power of Christ displayed at the Cross.

The reason we still see evil today? Because we wrongly believe He APPROVES or PERMITS or ALLOWS it. We can't effectively resist evil if we believe it came FROM Him in any regard. But, if we remove this deadly mental stronghold, I believe the tide will turn and victory WILL manifest.

Bottom Line: don't EVER say God causes OR allows OR permits OR ordains evil. Bite your mental tongue when you start thinking this way. An enemy had done this evil, not God, not Jesus. Jesus came to destroy evil, and in fact already has. (1 John 3:8).

All we have to do us recognize His victorious grace by our faith's fervent perception of it throughout the day, every day. The more we simply believe in the "ALWAYS ALREADY" VICTORY OF CHRIST, the more that His victory will openly manifest here on earth as it has already manifested in Heaven.

We must have a certain faith in the certain goodness of God which will “let no man say” that God causes, allows or uses evil (James 1:17-24). This certainty can ONLY be found in the perfect knowledge of our perfect Savior.
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Does God hand out permission slips to commit evil?
Many say that while God doesnt commit evil, He certainly ALLOWS it. Some go so far as to claim that Satan, prior to committing ANY evil act on the earth, must first go to God and get explicit APPROVAL. In other words, Satan must get a specific permission slip from God for every evil he commits. Calvinism, Judaism and Islam all believe in this horrible dynamic.
So let me get this straight. If my daughter gets raped, while your daughter does not, then the reason is that God specifically permitted my daughters destruction but not yours. My daughters rapist obtained a precise permission slip from God whereas your daughters would-be rapist didnt. 
WHAT? How is that ANY different from just saying God caused it to begin with. If Gods USDA stamp of approval is needed for every evil to happen, then evil HAS to come from Him. 
Under this line of reasoning, I couldnt even think of evil to begin with unless God explicitly permitted/ordained/decreed that I think of that particular evil. And, in fact, the founder of Calvinism, John Calvin, believed this very thing--- that nobody can conceive of any particular evil UNLESS God first expressly puts that evil thought in their mind to begin with. Under this view, there is NO difference between CAUSING and ALLOWING evil.
CRAZY! THIS IS THE ISAIAH 5:20 INFECTION (woefully calling good evil and evil good) IN ITS MOST SICKENING FORM!
This is so unworthy of God, of Jesus, of the Father, of the Holy Spirit. God has done EVERYTHING to DISALLOW all evil. Its called the Cross of Christ, the disarming of all evil described in Colossians 2:15.
God is now expecting us on earth to finally realize and believe this. (Hebrews 10:13). In the believing of it, we will then see every form of evil has ALWAYS ALREADY been extinguished by the power of Christ displayed at the Cross.
The reason we still see evil today? Because we wrongly believe He APPROVES or PERMITS or ALLOWS it. We cant effectively resist evil if we believe it came FROM Him in any regard. But, if we remove this deadly mental stronghold, I believe the tide will turn and victory WILL manifest.
Bottom Line: dont EVER say God causes OR allows OR permits OR ordains evil. Bite your mental tongue when you start thinking this way. An enemy had done this evil, not God, not Jesus. Jesus came to destroy evil, and in fact already has. (1 John 3:8). 
All we have to do us recognize His victorious grace by our faiths fervent perception of it throughout the day, every day. The more we simply believe in the ALWAYS ALREADY VICTORY OF CHRIST, the more that His victory will openly manifest here on earth as it has already manifested in Heaven.
We must have a certain faith in the certain goodness of God which will “let no man say” that God causes, allows or uses evil (James 1:17-24). This certainty can ONLY be found in the perfect knowledge of our perfect Savior.

It could be fairly said that the one thing Billy Graham preached was the need for every person to receive God's light and love through the New Birth. In honor of his passing, I want to weigh in on this issue.

Is the New Birth still necessary? Or is it an antiquated term we need to discard as meaningless religious jargon?

Let me answer that question with another question.

How many times did Jesus use the "M" word?

I searched through the Gospels with this question in mind: How many times did Jesus tell us that there was something WE "must" do?

I found only two such uses of the word "must" by Jesus:

1) in order to see and enter the Kingdom of God, we MUST be born again of the Spirit (John 3:7-8)

2) we who worship God we MUST worship Him in Spirit and in truth (John 4:24)

Jesus often said that there were many things HE "must" do, and many events that "must" happen, but in terms of what WE "must" do, Jesus only mentioned the two above.

So, MUST we be born again to both see and enter the kingdom of God?

I have recently heard a couple of well known progressive authors with postmodern leanings deny the legitimacy of the NEW BIRTH as a necessary event of Christian conversion. One author called it an artificial and unneeded fruit of "Pop Christianity." He denies the New Birth as being any kind of foundational "honeymoon" experience of "true Christianity."

These writers claim Jesus NEVER taught it, despite the fact that He seemed to strongly emphasize it in John 3:1-17. These writers claim that you were born just fine the first time, that there is nothing wrong with you, and that Jesus did not preach the need for "spiritual rebirth." They then say that the original Greek of John 3:3 and 7 allows for the term to be translated "born from above" rather than "born again." Their bottom line is that the NEW BIRTH is not required of anybody at any time.

Here is my response.

At the outset, I acknowledge that some NON-spirtual zealots have hijacked the term "born again Christian" to refer more to a political or cultural point of view than to a supernatural conversion into the Kingdom of God. This is unfortunate and troublesome, but that does not negate the reality or necessity of the New Birth which Jesus exhorted us to experience.

Jesus did say, "You must be born again." John 3:7 in what is arguably the most famous extended passage in the Bible, a passage punctuated by the incredible epiphany of John 3:16.

Now, regardless of which way the term can be translated ("born again" versus "born from above"), a REBIRTH is clearly contemplated, exhorted, and even commanded by Jesus under EITHER reading.

Moreover, even if the term can be translated two ways, then, for clarity's sake, we need to look at the VERBAL context of the conversation before making our decision. After Jesus used the term, Nicodemus obviously interpreted it to mean being "born again." He asks Jesus how is it possible to go BACK into the womb when you are old in order to be REBORN. Jesus did not say, "No, no Nicodemus, I don't mean it that way. We are just born one time, and that is all, and we we are born just fine and don't need any kind of spiritual rebirth." Jesus did not correct Nicodemus' grammatical understanding of His words, but responsively just explained that the rebirth He was talking about was not a physical one but a spiritual one.

Jesus did NOT correct Nicodemus’ understanding of the phrase, but instead affirmed that two births were needed, one of the water (of the womb) and the second by the spirit (of God). Jesus clearly distinguished TWO separate births in this passage, stating that that which was "born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the spirit is spirit." The first birth of the flesh was required to enter the kingdom of man. The second birth of the spirit is what was required to enter the kingdom of God. This is pretty apparent under any fair reading of this passage.

This isn't "pop Christianity," it's "Poppa's Christianity." Jesus didn't come to tell us we were born perfect and that everything we do or believe was flawless in His eyes. He came to tell it wasn't, but that He came to set things right. The first Adam brought us all death, but Jesus as the second Adam brought us the opportunity of REBIRTH. But, for us to experience and enter into the fulness of His rescue and salvation, we first need to repent/renew our thinking, be born again/born from above/reborn of the Spirit--- so that we can see and enter the kingdom of God. To read the need for the NEW BIRTH "out"of Christianity altogether isn't just massaging the Scriptures, it's removing one of only two MUSTS Jesus ever taught us to apply.

Lastly, Paul certainly taught the concept of spiritual rebirth. "Not by works of righteousness which we have done , but according to his mercy he saved us , by the washing of REGENERATION, and renewing of the Holy Spirit" Titus 3:5. The word regeneration in this passage is PALINGENESIA and literally means: "(spiritual) rebirth (the state or the act), i.e. (figuratively) spiritual renovation; specially, Messianic restoration:--regeneration."

In summary, I have no problem saying that all people are pregnant with Jesus. He lights every man who comes into the world as John 1 says. I believe that every person's destiny is to be born again, whether in this life or the next. Sooner or later all will experientially be born again, the sooner the better though.

I am even willing to believe that all men might be "provisionally" born again but not "experientially." We believe in the physical world the baby lives in the womb, but is not birthed until she leaves the mother's body. I think that is an apt comparison. Everybody has a new Christ man alive in their spiritual womb, but the birth of that Christ man is not completed until that new man is manifest upward and outward in our re-created heart, renewed mind and enlivened consciousness.

As for being "born again," I do think it is referenced many more times than just the once many claim. Peter uses the same phrase "born again" referring to believers, while Paul uses synonyms like "regeneration" and "renewal" and "new creation" and "our new man created in righteousness and true holiness." These terms are all related to the new birth dynamic. Can it happen only during sinner's prayer. No, of course not. It can happen anytime and anywhere. A responsive heart wooed BY the Spirit and crying FOR Jesus will be born again and will both see and enter the kingdom of God.
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I believe Christ ontologically rebirthed humanity at the resurrection, providing new spiritual life where before there was spiritual death. We didn't CHOOSE this, anymore than we chose to be born the first time. God did it "from the foundations...". I believe this event is what Jesus was chastizing Nicodemus for not knowing about it's coming because it IS in the prophetic teachings concerning Israel. So, its a done deal. That being said, we still need to acknowledge and live within this reality. I believe we do this through a series of epiphanies or "births" throughout our lives. We are constantly growing into this spiritual life we've been provided, just as we do our physical life. But our acceptance of it does not cause it to happen. Well, except between our two ears. 🙂

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Of all things embarrassing, the most tragic embarrassment is feeling too embarrassed.... to PRAY.

-- embarrassed at how it may sound
-- embarrassed at how it may look
-- embarrassed it might not work
-- embarrassed at what others might think of us

But know this.

What embarrasses you paralyzes you. Don't be paralyzed in prayerlessness. Be boldly kinetic in prayer. David stripped down to His loincloth to unashamedly enter into true unfettered worship. So too, let's strip down our egos to the bare and bold essentials-- our love toward Abba, love, our hope in the Spirit, and the faith of Christ. All else is clutter.

Be the eager first to pray, not the reluctant last.
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I was asked recently if the Cross was an "evil act." Here is my response.

The cross is not about "transgression."
The cross is about "transfusion."

The cross is not primarily a revelation of our violent resentment and disbelief toward God (although it certainly reveals that dynamic).

No, the cross' CORE revelation is that of God's boundless and bounteous goodness toward us. It is as though Jesus voluntary laid Himself down on the cross as if it were a donor's bed at the cosmic blood bank. He then voluntarily "transfused" His blood's cleansing, compassionate and curative spiritual energies to flow "freely in" and "intimately through" all of us.

All we have to do is voluntarily recline and rest on our own recipient crosses and allow the transfusion of His energizing passions to intravenously penetrate all of our anemic attitudes, anemic emotions, and anemic actions.

"I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." - Galatians 2:20

"His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness...by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them YOU MAY BECOME PARTAKERS OF THE DIVINE NATURE...." -2 Peter 1:3-4

Transfusion= trans + fusion.

Trans= "across, over and beyond."

Fusion= "the process or result of joining two or more things together to form a single entity." Synonyms include "union, marrying, bonding, merging, intermingling, integration, and synthesis."

Jesus came from heaven, across all time and space, to progressively fuse and weave His divine nature and love into every corner of our beings, that His wondrous presence might fill all in all. This is why Scripture says we are both His bride and His body.

This transfusion is transcendent!

So, the act of the cross is not evil but curative. No man took Jesus' life. He laid His life down to CURE our evil. It's as un-evil an act as humanly possible. Let me share a term that captures this wondrous concept.

POULTICE is a wonderful word.

It vibrantly captures Jesus' healing work at the Cross in a new and fresh way. A POULTICE is a soft, ABSORBENT and moist mass, which is often often heated and medicated. It is carefully spread over a wound, painful part or infected area of the body. The POULTICE then "draws out" the poison from the wound or body. The end result is that the body is cleansed of harmful toxins. POULTICE is also a term used for commercial products which can remove stains from porous stones such as marble or granite. So, POULTICE carries with it the related concepts of "poison and stain removal."

Snake and spider bites have been treated with poultices for thousands of years. Poison oak, poison ivy and even boils have also long been treated by poultices. POULTICES are called "poison pullers" because they pull poison away from infected areas by ABSORBING THE POISON INTO THEMSELVES. Epsom salt is a poultice, which combined with a bath and an exfoliating loofah sponge, draws out toxins through the pores of the skin. Other poultices include chewing tobacco, tea tree oil, castor oil, aspirin pastes, baking soda pastes, garlic coves, raw cabbage, echinacea, ashes, mashed pumpkins, bran, cereals and mustard plants.

Most interesting though, is the fact that bread is one of the more common poultices. This is because of its absorbent quality. Bread is packed into the wound, and then covered with a piece of sacking before being bandaged onto the site. Isn't it amazing that both "salt" and "bread" are common poultices, because Jesus uses these exact two items to describe Himself and us. Jesus refers to Himself as "the bread of life," while He calls us "the salt of the earth."

One application of these terms speaks to the anointing that both Jesus and the Church have to heal the world. It is easy to see Jesus as the ultimate POULTICE FOR ALL OUR SINS AND SICKNESSES. Consider the following prophetic passage where Isaiah describes Jesus' absorption of all our sins. "Surely He hath borne our griefs (lit. sicknesses), and carried our sorrows (lit. pains).... But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.... because He hath poured out His soul unto death: and He was numbered with the transgressors; and He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." Isaiah 53:4-5,12.

1 Peter confirms the poultice imagery from this Isaiah passage when he tells us in 2:24, referring to Christ, "Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by hIs stripes you were healed." What a perfect passage to describe Jesus as our POULTICE!

Jesus, as the bread of life, became the POULTICE which was laid over all our sins and sicknesses at the Cross. Jesus then ABSORBED our each and every sin-toxin into Himself. He absorbed every affliction of our spirits, souls and bodies. He "pulled out" every poisonous thought, impulse or wicked desire from our minds and hearts. He "pulled out" every sickness which has ever affixed itself to the human body. He "pulled out" every Satanic thorn imbedded in our flesh because of the access our sin gave the devil. He absorbed ALL our sins and sicknesses onto and into Himself.

As Spiritual medics, we all carry the great panacea for all situations in the pouch of our hearts. Toward all we encounter, we possess the Gospel POULTICE of Jesus to tenderly apply to every human wound and firmly apply to every evil circumstance. And remember, POULTICES not only absorb the presence of poison, but they also remove the stains left behind. All the stains of our shame, guilt and condemnation are no more. Jesus heroically absorbed away all OUR pain and poison onto Himself-- our Hero from Heaven.
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Lovely.. transgression to transfusion that's the power of what Love can do

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Jesus, during His incarnation, reveals God's nature as non-dualistic. God, after all the satanic qualities have been removed from His heavenly image by Jesus, is revealed as:

--a plague remover, not a plague sender

--a storm stopper, not a storm causer

--a death raiser, not a death dealer

--an oppression healer, not an oppression bringer

--an ever present help in time of need, not a seldom present help in time of need

--a bottomless fount of mercy and renewal, not a volcano of wrath and revenge.
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Here is a thought experiment I have tattooed on my brain when it comes to discerning what's of God nature and what's not.

First, I imagine the Jesus of the Gospel narratives as if He was physically present in every situation at issue. Next, if I can't imagine Jesus doing or not doing what is being proposed--- afflicting with sickness, oppressing with circumstances, slashing with weapons of violence, OR saying "no" to healing, saying "no" to helping, saying "no" to caring, OR staying silent, remote and unresponsive to our pain, then I know the particular proposal about God's nature seeking to explain and justify His malice or absence is.... well.... nuts.
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If you see God or Jesus as anything separate from you, I AM you missed it

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What, if anything, do the Martyrs speak to us today? I believe quite a bit.

The less certain I become about most things, the more certain I become about a few things.

I am less certain than I have ever been about topics like politics, government, institutional religion, and matters of cultural propriety.

But, I am more certain than anything in my life that God is good, only good, and always good. I am certain that Jesus is the revealed nature of God. I am certain Jesus is relentlessly tenderhearted, valiantly virtuous, and an ever present help in time of need.

The early martyrs weren't killed because they were certain about many things. Then, as now, know-it-alls were everywhere. Rather, the martyrs were killed because they were certain about a very few things, one really-- Jesus is the only Lord of life, light and love.

Let me state it another way. Martyrs in the early church were not killed simply because they worshipped Jesus. Rome would have allowed that. Rome normally allowed conquered territories to maintain their own religions.

No, Martyrs were killed because they worshipped ONLY Jesus. Had they but said "Caesar was Lord," or "Jupiter was Lord," or made sacrifice to any other of the Roman pantheon of Gods, they could have still worshipped Jesus and all would have been well. But, those who knew CHRIST and the Apostles' teachings knew that to acknowledge ANY other entity as deity WAS synonymous with denouncing Jesus Himself. To bring any Roman god or god-Emperor into the divine nature would have brought infectious darkness into the light-only image of God which the Apostles taught. See 1 John 1:5. On this issue the martyrs would not compromise.

Martyrs' blood refuses to acknowledge ANY God BUT Jesus--- not Gaia, not Allah, not Krishna or the 33 million other gods in the Hindu pantheon. And this certainly includes NOT acknowledging ourselves AS God. That errant desire drove Adam to partake of the death tree.

We live in a day where many say ALL approaches to ALL Gods are synonymous, that all approaches lead to God regardless of whether Jesus is accepted as Divine Savior, and that all the worldwide names of God are as legitimate as every other.

But, we should pause and reflect on what the precious blood of the Martyrs speaks to us about this modern call to acknowledge OTHER gods as truly divine. It's really no different than in Rome's day. Saying Jesus IS Lord necessarily means saying all the other gods are NOT Lord. And many don't like this.

Certainly, all who worship other gods are still greatly beloved by Jesus. There are also many noble-minded worshippers of other gods who, in fact, may be very near to the Kingdom of God, fully primed to receive the Gospel once it's presented in demonstration of love, Spirit and power.

But, nobody can enter the kingdom of God unless and until they inwardly recognize and respond to the Spirit of Christ wooing them. Again, they may be NEAR the Kingdom of God but they are not IN it. And I suppose it's possible that many are worshipping an inner image of Christ despite what the external image may be called. But, even so, they need to upgrade their understanding of the God they worship in partial ignorance.

Jesus didn't come to earth to tell us all our man-made gods lead to His Heavenly Father. He came to tell us they don't. Jesus alone is the gate into God. The real deal. The incarnated deal. The resurrected deal. The only deal. The narrow deal. Nobody comes to the Father but through Him.

Martyrs in the early Church were NOT killed because they were going around loving everybody (although they largely did). They were killed BECAUSE of their theology, BECAUSE of what they believed, BECAUSE of what they steadfastly shared about God. Origen was set on fire, his legs broken, his reputation smeared, not because he was a nice guy who gave everybody space to believe whatever idolatrous thing they wanted to believe.

He was killed because of the theology of truth he uncompromisingly taught and shared.

The next time someone wants us to think we are too spiritually mature to firmly believe in any particular theology, let's remember the blood of the martyrs. It was their theology that got them killed, not their lack of it. If they had merely told their persecutors that caesar (i.e. man at his most powerful) was as much God as was Jesus, a New Age dynamic widely taught today, then they would have been released from their captivity. It was the fact that they steadfastly believed Jesus was the ONLY God that got them killed.

And, let's be careful with the "Temple to an Unknown God" incident on Mars Hill. The purpose of this incident is NOT meant for the pluralistic proposition that all idolatry really points and leads to Jesus: in other words, that ALL religions lead to Jesus. Rather, the purpose of this passage is to see that Jesus can only enter the scene when humility is present, humility which admits that there IS an unknown God waiting to be discovered.

"Now while Paul waited for them at Athens , his spirit was stirred in him , when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.... Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars hill , and said , Ye men of Athens , I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious .

For as I passed by , and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription , TO THE UNKNOWN GOD . Whom therefore ye IGNORANTLY worship , him declare I unto you . God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth , dwelleth not in temples made with hands ; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands , as though he needed any thing , seeing he giveth to all life , and breath , and all things ;

And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth , and hath determined the times before appointed , and the bounds of their habitation ; That they should SEEK the Lord , if haply they might FEEL after him , and FIND him , though he be not far from every one of us : For in him we live , and move , and have our being ; as certain also of your own poets have said , For we are also his offspring." Acts 17:16, 22-28.

Paul's endgame here was that the Athenians would SEEK, FEEL and FIND Jesus as the true identity of their unknown God. Jesus was the God they never knew they always wanted.

So, here is the key to this passage. Paul WAS strongly vexed at the temples to the NAMED false gods throughout Athens-- Zeus, Athena, Apollo, etc. What made the Temple to the unknown god compelling to Paul was the Athenian's HUMILITY and ACKNOWLEDGMENT that there WAS a real overarching God whom they knew NOT of. And THAT beautiful humility was the doorway Paul used to minister the truth of Jesus. It was an invitation for Paul to fill the vacuum of their admitted ignorance with the real deal of the real God.

So, be careful not to use this passage to justify the proposition that ALL religions lead to Jesus. They simply do not. Only by professing ignorance of the one true God (admitting He is largely unknown to us) can we then become wise unto Jesus.

Zeus is not the Father in disguise. Apollo is not Jesus in disguise. Athena is not the Holy Spirit in disguise. Buddha, Krishna, Mohammed are not Jesus in disguise. They dilute the pristine virtue of Jesus. So, instead, let's drop the pantheon of divine names and admit what we all intuitively know, that we really know little to nothing about the real God of heaven in our own natural understanding. THEN, from this place of humility, we will be primed to receive the knowledge of God to fill our human temples to the brim with Jesus' limitless love and indefatigable goodness.
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What if I told you that a master weapon had been discovered that would EVENTUALLY eliminate all our enemies and without having to kill them?

What if I told you that to develop this weapon, we would first need to commit a significant investment of time and effort, along with a significant risk that some of the workers would be killed during the developmental process?

What if I told you that eventually this weapon would render every other form of weapon obsolete and useless? In fact, what if I told you that it would render ALL war useless and inoperative?

Would you invest?

Would you commit?

Would you accept the risk?

Would you put your whole being into this process?

Of course you would. Just as countless resources were invested and risks taken in developing our nuclear arsenal, so too would "carte blanche" resources be granted toward the ultimate weapon I am proposing.

Now, what if I told you that this new secret weapon was....... the human heart which refuses to retaliate with violence, instead exercising only peace, love and blessing toward all enemies?

Wait a minute! Is blessing our enemies actually a weapon that ultimately overcomes them?

Well, Jesus said so.

Perhaps we need to look at the way of non-violence as a superior weapons system that just needs massive commitment and development.

But, won't many people die as this perfect weapon is developed? Possibly yes, but if so, they will be martyrs for the greatest cause in history.

Now, I freely admit this a tough topic to navigate.

Do we really know why it's best to turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile, give the additional coat? Do we really know why it's better to pray for your enemies and bless those who curse and despitefully use us? Do we really know why all these things are better than eye-for-an-eye revenge, tooth-for-a-tooth retaliation and hate-for-hate cursing toward those who offend us? See Matthew 5:38-48.

It is not JUST that turning the other cheek keeps us from sinning, although it does. It is not JUST that praying for our enemies is the noblest thing we can do, although it is. And it is not JUST that blessing those who hate, curse and despitefully use us makes us Christ-like, although it certainly does.

No, the REASON "loving our enemies" is the best thing we can ever do is that it gives us the maximum POWER to ultimately overcome all their evil for THEIR sake.

Let me put it another way. When somebody victimizes US with condemnation, hatred, cursing, lying, violence or betrayal, you know what WE then become? We become the most powerful intercessor on earth for that PARTICULAR person. This is a Spiritual law imbedded by God in all creation. Whenever we are wronged, we are AUTOMATICALLY given EXTRA mojo, power, authority, anointing, and access to pray "blessing" and "conviction" UPON their heads.

The absolute best blessing we can pray for the enemy we have TRULY forgiven is to fervently and tenderly pray down what Romans calls "coals of cathartic conviction" upon their souls. These hot coals sear their consciences with the urge and need to repent. I call these "soul-coals." "Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head." Romans 12:20.

An eye-for-an-eye spirit of condemnation, revenge and resentment against your enemies will HINDER and OBSTRUCT their conviction to repent. But, a turn-the-other-cheek Spirit of love and non-judgment will MAXIMIZE and OPTIMIZE the conditions for their Godly repentance to occur. Whereas an eye-for-an-eye "spirit" causes us to call down fire on our enemies, just as the misguided disciples did in Luke 9:51-56, the turn-the-other-cheek "Spirit" causes us to pity and love our enemies because they simply do not know what they are doing. Luke 23:34.

Talk about victims' rights! We have the right and increased power to help save those who wrong us--- to save them to the uttermost from sin, Satan and themselves. Victims are the true power-brokers IF they respond in the the right Spirit... the opposite Spirit... the Christ Spirit.

Jesus not only preached Matthew 5:38-48, He lived it. Jesus did not operate out of an "eye for an eye spirit," but instead "resisted not evil," and "turned the other cheek." He let His killers have both His coat and cloak. He went the extra mile dying not only for their sins, but for the sins of the entire world. Jesus refused to "hate his enemies," instead "loving His enemies and blessing them which despitefully used and persecuted Him." Jesus truly was "perfect as His heavenly Father was perfect," in that He overcame the sum of all evil with sum of all good.

Jesus is now waiting for His beloved bride and body and Church to do the same-- to love as He loved, "without wrath and doubting." 1 Timothy 2:8. When the Church has washed all its wrath away, the Bride will have made herself ready. And then we shall see Him as He is-- face to face and glory to glory.

But until then...

God has weaved an invincible dynamic into creation that always gives those who are victimized the most powerful force in the universe to wield at their disposal--- forgiveness. But biblical "forgiveness" is not just "mercy" to graciously overlook the wrong. Biblical "forgiveness" in the original Greek language means complete "deliverance" for the sinner FROM the bondage to the sin itself.

In other words, "perfect forgiveness" ULTIMATELY works "COMPLETE deliverance." This "power of good" to ultimately "overcome evil" and thoroughly PURGE evildoers of all sin-bondages works absolutely and without exception. Sometimes it works quickly. Sometimes it works slowly. Sometimes it works in THIS age. Sometimes it will work in the age to COME. But it ALWAYS works.

In our patience and faith in this Scripturally-promised dynamic, that of overcoming all evil with good, we will truly "possess our souls" as we count it all joy when we are "victimized" by persecutions. Luke 21:19; James 1:2-4. The reason we can rejoice is that IF and AS we truly forgive, bless and love our enemies, we are literally "saving them" from Satan's clutches.

But, on the other unfortunate hand, our toxic resentment and desire to retaliate against our enemies will only worsen the situation, both ours AND our enemies. It may well be that there is so little true deliverance FROM sin because there is so little true forgiveness OF sin by those who have been victimized. But, us learning to fully and actively "forgive," JUST AS the Father and Jesus "forgive," is the KEY thing we are now called to realize and walk in.

The strongest intercession FOR particular evildoers potentially comes from those who are victimized BY those same evildoers. This is why, "Jesus liveth to make intercession for them." We are "them." Jesus is our champion intercessor BECAUSE He became the champion victim. He turned His cosmic cheek the other way in love rather than retaliate against us in wrath. And because of this, He truly is all powerful in Heaven and earth. His mercy ransomed us from all evil.

Jesus is easily the MOST victimized person to ever walk the earth. He was completely sinless, yet bore the full brunt of victimization for EVERY sin ever committed. He was victimized by all OUR misguided evildoing in thought, deed or word. Our mental, verbal, emotional and physical violence, all inflicted UPON Jesus at the Cross gave Him the the most powerful intercessory influence the world has ever seen.

So, even if we fail to fully forgive, we still have a cosmic safety net---- Jesus! Jesus is the savior of the whole world, which in the Latin is expressed as "Salvador Mundi." Jesus is the perfect intercessor, and His love shall not fail to eventually overcome and rescue all men trapped in sin. He shall overcome them with His flawless goodness, whether it be in this life or the next.

But, let's don't just count on His safety net of mercy to make all things right in some FUTURE age. Let's join in the "fray" of forgiveness right HERE and NOW. As warriors of virtue, let's battle all wrath by learning to "forgive" with a vengeance! When we learn that God's only "vengeance" is to "wholly heal" His enemies, then our hearts will be primed and ready to fight the good fight of faith.

The Christian-killing Saul became the Christian-thrilling Paul. But could that earth shattering transformation have occurred if Christians THEN thought as most Christians do today when it comes to questions of self-defense?

Saul was present when the first Christian martyr (named Stephen) was killed by an angry mob.

"... they all rushed at him (Stephen), dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. . . . And Saul was there, giving approval to his death" (Acts 7.57 to 8:1).

After Stephen was martyred, Saul went door to door in Jerusalem finding people who believed that Jesus is the Messiah.

"Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison" (Acts 8:3).

"I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death...both men and women"(Acts 22:4-5).

I'm so glad the persecuted and imperiled Christians of Saul's day didn't get together and decide that they would assassinate Saul in order to protect themselves and others from harm at Saul's killing persecutions.

Had these Christians been asked at that time what would they "do if someone forced their way into their house and attacked them and their families," their answer would probably not have included killing the intruder in self-defense.

Had Jesus sanctioned such the defensive or peremptory action of killing Saul, Paul would have never come out of the cocoon as a transformed and forgiven man-- one who would change the world by redefining love, unveiling grace, and welcoming all men to the IN CHRIST realities of the Gospel.

And we would all be the poorer for it.

On the road to Damascus, God told Paul that it was "hard for him to kick against the goads." To which goads was the Lord referring? I think "goads" here are synonymous with the "burning coals" of cathartic conviction which Romans mentions. Who heaped these nuclear coals on Saul's head? The answer is in the passage below where we see Stephen's dying declaration of forgiveness and blessing toward his killers, words that would no doubt plant irreversible seeds of transformation into Saul's soul.

"But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit'.And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, 'Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.' And when he had said this, he fell asleep." Acts 7:55-60.

This is the strongest weapon ever seen in heaven or in earth--- the nuclear power of forgiveness.
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Lovely... TRUE POWER is the ability to call forth goodness out of evil, light out of darkness, love and joy out of Hatred, this is really the true gospel and power of God...l love this, thank God for the spirit of Revelation and understanding in the Knowlegde of Christ.

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The dam of damnation is cracking.

The waters of God's divine energies are continually rising and crashing against this wall of fear which seeks to block our recognition of the divine nature.

Many are seeing the cracks lengthen and widen. Like the walls of Jericho, our awe-filled worship around the right image of the Father of lights will bring the walls of ignorance down.

And everyone and their neighbor will know God.

All captivity will be taken captivity.

And damnation will be damned.
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Here is a very interesting concept. It goes along way in helping us understand why Jesus' view of heaven was "mythic," and had to be described in figurative language of what it was spiritually "like" rather than what it literally "was."

"To say something is [in a postmodern sense] 'mythic' is not to say that it is untrue or unreal, but to accept that it can only be expressed in some kind of figurative language, ancient or modern, but is nonetheless 'very, very real'. The problem with this is that those of us who are still shaped by the 'modern', 'Enlightenment' outlook (including apparently Evangelical and 'conservative' Christians!) do not seem able to shake off the idea that to call something a 'myth' is an ontological judgment [i.e. that it is not real] and not merely a literary one." Thomas A. Noble, THE SPIRIT WORLD: A THEOLOGICAL APPROACH, page 212, The Unseen World, Edited by N.S. Lane (1996).

This opens up a floodgate of Scriptural allegories to now be seen as "mythic" representations of greater realities which simply can't be effectively expressed by literal language. These mythic stories describe dynamic multidimensional realities that we can only grasp through the use of symbol and allegory.

Paul used this mythic element profusely throughout his letters. The Old Testament Temple becomes a mythic representation of the heavenly Temple, which itself remains beyond our senses to fathom. The Old Testament crossing of the Red Sea becomes a mythic representation of our Baptism into Christ. Circumcision becomes a mythic representation of the inner transformation of our heart, a process we can't see through the eye of literal description.

And the list goes on.
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2 weeks ago

The Goodness of God

Did Paul instruct the Corinthians that a particular man was be "turned over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh that his spirit may be saved?"

Well, yes and no. It's important to know the whole story. Meaning evolves as we discover the whole story. This passage (2 Corinthian 5) is often cited to show Paul's utter disdain and lack of tolerance for sexual sins. But is this fair reading of the entire episode?

2 Corinthians 5 was written, as I read the context, to address one particular "hot topic" situation where a man was having an affair with his step-mother. "It is actually reported that sexual immorality exists among you, the kind of immorality that is not permitted even among the Gentiles, so that someone is cohabiting with his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you have been deeply sorrowful instead and removed the one who did this from among you? For even though I am absent physically, I am present in spirit. And I have already judged the one who did this, just as though I were present. When you gather together in the name of our Lord Jesus, and I am with you in spirit, along with the power of our Lord Jesus, turn this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord." 1 Corinthians 5:1-5.

I grant you that Paul was pretty intolerant with his tone here. YET, observe how he softens his tone later regarding this same situation in 2 Corinthians. His mindset has changed from one of prosecution to one of mercy. It's really beautiful to behold. He tells them to turn him over to Satan in 1 Corinthians 5, but in 2 Corinthians Paul reverses that pronouncement in exhorting them to forgive and comfort the sinning man, a great example of mercy triumphing over judgment.

"For out of great distress and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears, not to make you sad, but to let you know the love that I have especially for you. But if anyone has caused sadness, he has not saddened me alone, but to some extent (not to exaggerate) he has saddened all of you as well. This punishment on such an individual by the majority is enough for him, so that now instead you should rather forgive and comfort him. This will keep him from being overwhelmed by excessive grief to the point of despair. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him." 2 Corinthians 2:4-8.

Wow! What a difference a day makes! While Paul doesn't expressly retract what he said earlier, he does SO temper it with an infusion of mercy that His position toward the situation seems to have undergone a 180 degree shift.

But, I do acknowledge that Paul also said in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 the following: "I wrote you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. In no way did I mean the immoral people of this world, or the greedy and swindlers and idolaters, since you would then have to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who calls himself a Christian who is sexually immoral, or greedy, or an idolater, or verbally abusive, or a drunkard, or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person. For what do I have to do with judging those outside? Are you not to judge those inside? But God will judge those outside. Remove the evil person from among you."

But, I have to wonder if Paul was striking the rock a little hard here as well, since it was in the wake of his wrath (later withdrawn) against the sinning man mentioned above. I think sometimes Paul writes more "emotively" than "doctrinally." We all often say things out of emotional frustration and concern when initially confronted with shocking situations. And this frustration can cause our initial statements to be more in the nature of rhetoric meant to unsettle rather than doctrine to declare.

But, I do acknowledge that IF this entire I Corinthians passage was intended as instruction, it was aimed more at hypocrisy than anything else. Paul appears to be saying we are not to associate with those CHRISTIANS who continually practice hypocrisy, not just in the sexual area, but in ANY area of virtue: verbal abuse, drinking, swindling, or greed. That covers quite a bit of ground.

But, even here we have to be cautious. Slipping into hypocrisy is very common among us all, in both big and small ways. So, this Pauline passage, without further refining, can lure us into some rash, hard-hearted, and prosecutorial mindsets.

I certainly acknowledge that continual, flagrant and non-repentant hypocrisy does need to be discerned and confronted on some level. It's just the older I get, the more I see us all/me erring in so many ways that a hard and condemning eye would see as hypocritical. We could end up judging each other out of fellowship altogether if we did not temper this critical evaluation with divine wisdom and mercy. Honestly, I don't really sense Jesus being so quick to pull the hypocrisy-bashing trigger as perhaps was Paul.

To be fair to Paul, when we BLEND together the entire episode described in 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Paul's initial rhetoric of frustration evolves into a richly tempered declaration of mercy. It's certainly ok for us to emote initial frustration at disturbing situations we encounter. But, we are called, as was Paul, to later "cure" that frustration with relentless grace, restorative mercy and tempered tenderness.
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Most definitely, for the wrath of man works not the Righteousness of God; Love that shows Mercy along with teaching is always the prevailing force of the God-Life to bring others unto maturity, even though sometimes our emotions shows up at the disappointment of those things that are antichrist. Thanks for this piece.

Tiffany Romasanta Lee Daniel Lee

Paul was human AND a former Pharisee. One does not easily drop all judgmental attitudes quickly. It can take the course of years for us to learn to temper judgement with grace and mercy, because there but for the grace go I.

Pple, Paul was also offended wit d Galatian Christians, yet He laid one of His deepest foundations 4 Grace. If we 'reduce' 1 Cor. 5 to mere 'emotional display' aren't we also supposed 2 reduce Galatians 2 dat? So all d Grace Paul taught in Galatians in merely Paul in anger mode.

Jesus was also angry in d temple & judgmental on d Pharisees. Ar we 2 say all he did & said den makes no sense since our Lord was angry.

James was unhappy wit d Christians he wrote 2 in his letter. James 4:4- 4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. James 4:8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. He made some really anti grace comments. Ar we 2 invalidate dem bc he was probably unhappy?

Is d Word of God especially d letters 2 d churches nw open 2 our individual interpretation based on our perceived moods of d writers? Do d 'mood swings' change d inspiration of d Holy Spirit?

2 Pet 1:20-21 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

Paul himself said, concerning probably d incident in 1 Cor. 5 in 1 Cor. 7:8-9 8 For though I made you sorry with a letter, I DO NOT REPENT, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season. 9 Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. & in 1 Cor. 7:11-12 11 For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter. 12 Wherefore, though I wrote unto you, I did it not for his cause that had done the wrong, nor for his cause that suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear unto you.

He was apparently proud of what he wrote 2 dem earlier in 1Cor. 5 bc it produced d kind of results he wantd, namely repentance & holiness. Mind u, after so many years btw 1Cor. & 2Cor. he must av bin cool headed enof 2 identify any mistake he made bc of d whole world reading dat letter eventually but he didnt. he did nt say "o beloved, my anger & pharaisal spirit overtook me, I'm so sorry" No, he approved it!

I believe in d Gospel of Grace & righteousness & forgiveness of sins based solely on d merit of Jesus. But den again, we should nt give Law preachers an excuse 2 say we are lopesided( they av many already!). In stead, let's present reasonable & concrete evidence 4 why we believe what we believe. They misinterprete Scripture 2 fit their Law stance, let's nt return d favour! I preach Grace bc d Bible confirms it, nt bc I want 2 believe there's Grace in d Bible. 1 Pet 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a REASON of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

The Apostle Paul was a great man. He had many "third heaven" revelations. He also had many "first heaven" educated opinions. We need to know the difference. "Third heaven" revelation from the "throne room" of God fills Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians. "First heaven" opinions based on Paul's practical philosophy frequently appear in Timothy, Titus, Romans and Corinthians, even though these books also contain many "third heaven" insights as well. Let me clarify. Jesus never talked philosophically about politics, slavery, women's rights, etc. However, Paul did. And without question, Paul's opinions on these issues certainly matter. They are a good place to start. But, are Paul's opinions on philosophical issues the final word for all time? Are we forever chained to Paul's opinions? Are we unable to better develop them, respectfully disagree with them, or rigorously debate them? Do we stand on Paul's shoulders or does he stand on ours? If Paul stands on OUR shoulders, then we, as the low man on the totem pole, will never see the answers directly for ourselves, but will have to totally trust Paul's philosophic vision as the ONLY legitimate seer on these matters. But, if WE stand on Paul's shoulders, then we should be able to see higher and better and fresher and clearer than Paul did on these issues. I can easily imagine Paul exhorting us in the cloud of heavenly witnesses to carry the baton of his opinions faster and farther than he did. He would WANT us to refine, improve and expand his personal philosophy to better honor the Lord. Paul's opinions in these areas might be part of the foundational "floor" we stand on for initial balance, but they are not the ultimate conceptual "ceiling" we grow to reach toward and beyond. Let me give an example. Jesus NEVER talked about political systems, except perhaps when He said, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's" (Matthew 22:21). This one statement is hardly a political manifesto with which to guide our Christian walk. Jesus NEVER said ALL governments were ordained by God to execute the sword over evil doers or that government officials were ministers of God. And yet Paul said all these things in Romans 13:1-7. But, one could argue that this differed from Jesus' view because in the wilderness temptations it is revealed that all the kingdoms of the worlds are in the power of Satan to give to whom he pleased (Luke 4:5-6). 1 John 5:19 confirms that the whole fallen world lies in the power of the evil one -- Satan. Thus, one could make the Scriptural argument that earthly governments are unspiritual at best and demonically influenced at worst. Yet, Paul had a higher view of government as a godly authority, or at least he did when he wrote the book of Romans. But let's think about that for a moment. Paul was a Roman citizen, a status which gave him a lot of protection. Time and time again, Paul was protected from death at the hands of the Judaizers BECAUSE he was a Roman citizen. To Paul, the government he was exposed to offered him and his ministry a level of protection.

But, would Paul have felt that Rome was "God's minister" when they sacked Jerusalem and killed thousands of Jewish men, women and children. Or, if Paul was given a prophetic foresight into the despotic governments of Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, Mao Zedong's China, Pol Pot's Cambodia, Saddam Heusein's Iraq, Pavelic's Croatia, who, in total, harshly oppressed and brutally killed hundreds of millions during their rule, would Paul have written Romans 13:1-7? If Paul could have seen their future evil, would Paul call ALL government authorities "ministers of God" as he did in Romans 13? Surely not! The point is that what Paul said about government was HIS philosophy, HIS best Christian opinion, and HIS best advice to a young church in need of practical counsel. BUT, what Paul said about government was NOT his "third heaven" revelation. Paul's "third heaven" revelations consisted of his transcendent epiphanies of the Lord's "SUPERNATURAL GRACE" and the matchless "IN CHRIST" realities available to all believers. Paul acknowledged in Romans 14 that our respective maturity levels of faith might result in us having differing opinions on various practical matters such as diet, drink, calendars and festivals. The brother with weaker faith may have a different view than the brother with more mature faith, yet the freer brother should not be a stumbling block to the weaker brother by purposely doing anything which would be a stumbling block to the faith of the younger believer. Paul's point was that each believer could be on different sides of an issue, yet both still be right IF they both were acting from their respective levels of faith. In 1 Corinthians 7:10-16, Paul also acknowledged that he had particular revelation which he was certain was from the Lord with regard to marriage, BUT that there were OTHER marriage-related issues in which he could only hazard his best opinion. Paul simply didn't have "throne room revelation"on every practical or philosophical question that came before him. And he was man enough to admit it. Let's take other examples. Paul said women should NOT speak in church, should NOT teach men, and in fact should NOT exercise any authority over any men (1 Timothy 2:12; 1 Corinthians 14:34-35). Are we to be tightly and permanently bound to Paul's philosophical view of women espoused in the above verses? Certainly not. The body of Christ has, for the most part, left this primitive philosophy behind. Today, there are tons of anointed female teachers, prophets, pastors and minsters who, praise God, DON'T keep silent in church. Paul likewise instructed slaves to be obedient to their masters (Ephesians 6:5; Titus 2:9). The church has violated this principle repeatedly by supporting anti-slavery activities of all kinds, including underground railroads during the Civil War which both encouraged and enabled slaves to disobey their masters by running away. Do mature Christians planet-wide agree with Paul's philosophy which would have run away slaves always return to their masters to once again subject themselves to a yoke of bondage, JUST to comply with Paul's opinion? Paul did this very thing to the runaway slave Onesimus in Philemon 9-24. Here, Paul sent Onesimus back to his master Philemon, along with a written plea to free him. Don't get me wrong. Paul's solution in Onesimus' case was beautiful and full of grace. His plea to Philemon brings tears to read it. However, does this mean that Paul's philosophy of slaves obeying their masters is a universal rule meant to apply for all times in all situations? Or, can we develop, modify and evolve Paul's thinking to discover a different "faith solution" for ourselves? Millions of runaway slaves over the last thousand years have done just that. Do I have the confidence to say that the Holy Spirit has NEVER led ANY oppressed slave to escape his oppression by running away? No!!! And, bringing government back into it, Christians also have a long history of protest and refusal when it comes to "obeying" the authorities God has set "over us." From abortion to military service to unjust wars to capital punishment, Christians have long "resisted the ordinances and powers of government" when quickened to do so by their consciences. But Paul said that "whoever resists the power or ordinance (of government) resists the ordinance of God and shall receive to themselves damnation." Romans 13:2. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who is universally admired for his righteous lifestyle and ministry, is widely considered a martyr for conspiring to physically remove Hitler from power. He failed and was executed by Hitler's regime. Bonhoeffer would definitely disagree with Paul that ALL government "powers that be are ordained by God" ( Romans 13:1). There is just no way God ordained Hitler to rule Germany under divine unction. Paul's gross oversimplification of complete political obedience was, as Albert Einstein famously said, "Simpler than possible." Nobody would seriously label Bonhoeffer's acts of "resisting the power and ordinance" of Nazi Germany as an offense which would bring him "damnation." If every great Christian who resisted government authority and power was "damned" for doing so, then heaven will be sparse indeed.

By the way, the Holy Ghost has definitely managed a few "technically illegal" jail breaks in his day, such as in Acts 5:19; 12:10; 16:26. If Paul's Romans 13:2 propositions were universally true, then the apostles, who frequently escaped numerous lawful prisons, along with the Holy Ghost Himself, would ALL be guilty of "resisting the power and ordinance of God." I wouldn't like to be the officer who tries to serve THAT arrest warrant on the Holy Ghost. Aside from the issues listed above, it may also be that Paul's linked views on election, predetermination and the potter-clay analogy used in Romans 9-11 may all be influenced more by Paul's philosophies than by Paul's epiphanies. Paul's pharisaical background so steeped in hyper-sovereignty and hyper-predetermination, combined with his ongoing vexation at his Jewish brothers' continuing rejection of the Messiah, may well have combined to push Paul a little too far over into his "vexed" opinion and away from his spiritual revelation. I say this because issues of predetermination and election never seemed to concern Jesus in His teachings or preachings. Yet, Paul describes God as a sovereign potter who either predetermines humans to fail as instruments of wrath and dishonor OR succeed as instruments of glory and honor. This preformation of men occurs in the same way clay is manipulated by the hands of the potter. This image portrays God as an omnipotent potter PRE-forming and PRE-determining all our futures by EITHER giving us inborn "flaws to fail" or inborn "faith to succeed." This analogy by Paul is not well thought out and is not fully consonant with the loving Father revealed by Jesus, a Father Who in NO way has any connection to putting evil flaws into us and Who gives only good gifts to His children (James 1:13-17; Matthew 7:11). Again, this questionable analogy may be more due to Paul's philosophical bent towards hyper-predeterminsm than it is to perfect "third heaven" revelation. The point is that we must not treat Paul's personal philosophy the same way we treat his supernatural "third heaven" revelations which come straight from "the throne room of God." Jesus NEVER preached or taught on these specific topics listed above for a reason. He wanted US to be fluid, thoughtful and faithful in OUR generation by going BEYOND Paul's advice into greater and greater solutions for OUR day and OUR circumstance. Paul's wisdom is certainly to be esteemed and understood from every angle, but it is not the only acceptable philosophy on these matters. Christians of different faith levels and giftings can disagree on these non-essential, tangential issues listed above and still be operating in faith that pleases God. The point for us is to find and follow our OWN "faith" in these issues of conscience. So, let's commit to learn the difference between EPIPHANIES "from the Lord" and PHILOSOPHIES "about the Lord." Epiphanies are divine revelations which are non-negotiable and non-amendable. Philosophies, by contrast, are informed human opinions which are always negotiable and subject to higher and better interpretations.

Jesus, both during His earthly ministry as well as His current indwellng of us, just remains silent on so many things-- politics, social moors and sexual orientations. To say Jesus votes Republican, favors gun rights, or disfavors all homosexuals seems wrong. Nor is it that He necessarily favors all these things, but rather that He stays curiously silent and non-condemning on them, as if they were not the real issue. It is one thing to wrestle with resolve and vote our conscience the best we can by making our "best call" on the issues of the day. It is quite another to say Jesus would definitely vote our way and our way only, for all eternity. You see, here is the thing. "Whatever is NOT of faith is sin." Romans 14:23. Thus, advocating gun rights "without faith" is sin, just as opposing gun rights is sin if we don't do it in faith. If we can't register as Republicans in faith, then that is sin, just as it is sinful to register without faith as a Democrat. Similarly, to live as heterosexual without organic faith is just as sinful as living as a homosexual without faith. The absence or presence of dynamic faith on Jesus IN the moment is the key issue, the only issue really. We make the mother of all mistakes by defining "sin" as "conduct" rather than "conviction." Moses allowed divorce because of the hardness of people's hearts, the evil heart of unbelief in other words. The conduct was negotiable because of the people's heart condition. Their faith level was the pivotal issue, not the conduct in question. We will never convert anybody if we focus on their conduct rather than their conviction. "This is the work of God, that you believe on Him who He has sent." John 6:28. Belief, belief, belief! If our hearts are filled with faith, then God will give us the desires of our hearts, the very desires themselves, which will lead us to vote or not vote as our faith leads. Paul had many epiphanies and many philosophies. Epiphanies are gold we can take to the bank. But philosophies are another matter. Philosophies are our "best opinions" based on our understanding of the current situation at the current time. Paul's IN CHRIST epiphanies were priceless and spiritual gold. Take and totally and eternally trust them for all their worth. They are God's unadulterated heart and are not to be dickered with. But, philosophies on the other hand, are subject to interpretation and improvement by all free-thinking sons of God. For instance, Paul's philosophies about women NOT being allowed to teach men or ever speak in Church; his philosophy about slaves NEVER opposing their masters; his political philosophy about governments ALWAYS being ministers of God; and his philosophy that God was a cosmic master potter PREFORMING men to fail or succeed from the womb; were all opinions we are certainly to seriously consider. However, Paul's opinions are NOT epiphanies we must rigidly adhere too for all eternity. They are informed opinions, but not necessarily divine decrees. Jesus has given us flex and room to grow and develop something better if we can. We stand on Paul's shoulders, not vice versa. If we can see something better, higher, truer and stronger than did Paul, then he himself would delight and encourage us to make the better call. An enlightened opinion is not the same as an eternal epiphany. Opinions evolve and fluidly change. Epiphanies do not. Let's learn the difference!

Was Jesus violent in the cleansing of temple and cursing of the fig tree? www.facebook.com/richard.murray.1840/posts/622283174498403

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2 weeks ago

The Goodness of God

Here is my proposed solution to the question, "How can we know for sure what any Biblical author REALLY believed, knew, or meant in their writings, especially in the areas where they seem to contradict their own view (or other Bible writers' view) stated in other passages?"

I honestly don't agonize over what they consciously and precisely knew, believed, or meant to say. This is because there is simply no definitive way to know, not for sure. We can drive ourselves batty doing that, and it's often just speculative guesswork.

The Old Testament writers were pre-Pentecost believers and lacked the fullness of indwelling by the Holy Spirit. Moreover, the New Testament writers were pioneers of pregnant concepts and truths without the benefit of knowing how those concepts would birth and play out over subsequent generations over the next two thousand years.

To attribute to them, at time of their writings, the flawless omniscience that should still meticulously direct us today is unwise. Their writings were the foundational floor, not the evolutional ceiling. That would be like asking the doctor who birthed us what we will thereafter look and act like when we grow up. The doctor delivers us, but then OTHER caretakers, interpersonal relationships, and developmental factors take over.

So, I don't go backward to the text there and then. Rather, I bring the text forward to my life today, here and now. I trust that the Spirit wants to update the text to MY eyes for MY life and for MY benefit. I believe divine and beneficial truth is imbedded by the Spirit in the subtext of all Scriptures, and that only the Spirit can help us rightly retrieve its meaning though our quickened consciences. God doesn't want us to be master historians of ancient cultures' grammatical-historical realities. Rather, He wants us to understand and engage our present circumstances in the most interpersonal and illuminated way imaginable.

Is Scripture meant to be read and understood only in the rear view mirror of our thinking? Or, rather, is Scripture meant to be read through the front windshield of our understanding.

Does the Lord want us to devolve and prune the text back to when it was first written, or, conversely, does the Lord want us to recognize the organic growth of the text as it has evolved over thousands of years into the current time and place-- today, here, and now, in other words?

Simply put, do we take the text backward or do we bring it forward?

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, one of the greatest spiritual writers of all time, challenged the Goliath of historical context which still inhibits most readers of Scripture. Context is not all it's cracked up to be. The tyranny of historical context can keep us from entering into and participating with the text as an open dance.

Consider the extended passage below from Robert Louis Wilken:

"Without context as a guide interpretation, it is argued, will be arbitrary and captive to the caprice of the interpreter....

Context is, however, an elusive category. In dealing with ancient texts it is often assumed that what went before or what is contemporaneous with the text set the terms of interpretation. Yet one might ask why context should be restricted to what happened earlier. Is what went before more significant than what occurred afterward or what came about because of what happened, was said or was written down? With great political ideas, for example, it is only as they are played out in history that we know what they mean. In the telling of American history, President John Kennedy’s achievements during his presidency would be remembered much differently had he not been assassinated in his first term.

Even in our personal lives and in relations with others we are constantly adjusting our view of the past and of the lives of others as new experiences unfold. We view a close friend who has patiently and heroically endured a grave illness differently than we did before his illness. Even the things done or said earlier appear different.

Fyodor Dostoevsky thought that any understanding of the past that did not see things in light of what came later produced the 'worst kind of untruth.' As an example he referred to a painting by the Russian artist, Nikolai Ge, in which Christ and his disciples were portrayed as average Russian men and women of the l860s. Dostoevsky writes: 'There sits Christ, but is that Christ? It may be a very good young man, deeply hurt by his quarrel with Judas, the latter standing there getting dressed to go off and denounce him, but this is not the Christ we know . . . [and] we must ask the question: where are the eighteen centuries of Christianity that followed? . . . How is it possible that from such an ordinary quarrel of such ordinary people gathered to have supper . . . there could arise something so colossal?' If we are to be true to what happened, a person or event from the past must be seen in light of subsequent developments 'which had not yet occurred at the historical moment' which the artist was depicting.10

Dostoevsky’s question is our question. Where are the 19 centuries of Christian life and history in our interpretation of the Bible? Echoing Dostoevsky we might say, 'there stand the psalms as ancient Hebrew poems, but are they the psalms we know?' When I read this passage from Dostoevsky in the final volume of the magnificent biography by Joseph Frank, I was reminded of the words of another 19th century figure, Adolf von Harnack, whose ideas have dominated the interpretation of the history of theology in the 20th century (and, one might add, prejudiced generations of scholars against patristic exegesis).

Many years ago I wrote down this passage from his Lehrbuch der Dogmengeschichte: 'No religion gains anything through time, it only loses.' For Harnack, the Church’s history had to be scoured by the acid of critical historical reason to uncover an earlier allegedly more pristine form of the gospel. Yet what is most characteristic of the Christian (and one might add the Jewish) interpretation of the Scriptures is that the words of the Bible do not arrive smooth and clean, scrubbed free of the experiences of centuries. Much of what we hold most dear in the Scriptures was discerned only over time.

Time has endowed the words and images of the Bible with a fulness that can be known only by reading the text forward, not backward. A particularly egregious example of the unanticipated and unhappy consequences of self-imposed amnesia is the New Revised Standard Version translation of Beatus vir, 'Blessed is the man,' in Psalm 1. By translating the verse according to the perverse and ephemeral logic of the moment, 'Happy are those who . . .,' the Christological interpretation of the psalm is swept away to become a forgotten chapter in the arcane specialty of the history of exegesis.

Allegory resists the tyranny of historicism and invites us to see things as they are, not as we imagine them to have been centuries ago. This is one reason for the formative power of the liturgy on interpretation. The Church at prayer spans the great divide separating what the text meant from what it means. Allegory is about what has come to be, the accom- modation that is inevitable because of what happened in Christ, in the Church, and what continues to unfold....

Allegory’s playfulness and inventiveness grows out of the certainty of faith formed by a community of shared beliefs and practices. It keeps words from evaporating into nothing, from becoming simply things, not signs. It also introduces a welcome and necessary obliqueness into our reading of the Scriptures. Remember that according to Exodus, God showed only his back to Moses. Metaphor, symbol, image are the natural clothing of religious thought. 'Tell all the truth but tell it slant,' wrote Emily Dickinson, the American poet. By likening what is known to unexpected words or images within the Bible, allegory gave Christian thinkers a more subtle and versatile vocabulary to speak of the things of God. The language of the Bible became a vehicle of discovery."

Robert Louis Wilken, ALLEGORY AND THE INTERPRETATION OF THE OLD TESTAMENT IN THE 21ST CENTURY.

Jacques Derrida's post-structural philosophy of deconstruction makes a stunning point about the twin tyrannies of "authorial intent" and "historical context."

These tyrants-- "context" and "authorial intent," insist that we "ball-and-chain" the meaning of any text to ONLY and ALWAYS what the original author (no matter how ancient, poorly informed, or poorly understood the author may be) "specifically meant" (as if we could know that with any certainty) OR what the immediate audience of the author would have understood the text to mean given the surrounding culture of that time and place.

The implications for Derrida's Davidic slingshot attack on these two hermeneutical Goliaths has enormous impact on Biblical hermeneutics.

“The effects or structure of a text are not reducible to its ‘truth’, to the intended meaning of its presumed author.” (Derrida, Otobiographies, quoted in Thiselton, New Horizons, p.111).

Derrida doesn’t deny that an author of a text intends a particular meaning. But, whatever was originally intended cannot be the ‘fixed’ meaning of the particular text."

Derrida believed we put far too much weight on the subjective intentions of the original author. There are many other societal, linguistic, and spiritual influences at work which affect how the original text is now understood and continues to be understood.

It is as if once a text is finished, Derrida implies, it is truly only beginning the roller coaster ride of its interpretive activity and conceptual evolution. It is as if the texts become the "community property" of all who thereafter engage them.

These text-engagers form a "corporate womb" who suffer labor pangs as they continue to give multiple births to varied and vibrant readings, readings unknown and unconsidered by the original author, and unknown and unconsidered by the context in which the text was originally written.

Derrida appears to mean that while authors continue to write with a specific intent and meaning, the moment the text is finished, other forces take over the text for better or worse. Like a maverick homing pigeon who never returns home, the text is flying to parts unknown without ever returning home to its author.

The text joins the play of semiotics and signifiers and their reference become a function of what society and/or spirit decides they will mean. "In this way, the meaning of texts transcends their originating author, ricocheting back onto him, ‘writing’ him in the ultimate paradox of inversion."

Deconstruction is way for us to keep alive to the fact that meaning is never as straightforward as we think it is. It can be continually be deconstructed again and again, forever evolving in meaning.

Unfortunately, today what was intended to be a multi-lane superhighway of interpretive adventure and awe, has instead been largely reduced to a one-lane log jam where the only legitimate Bible reading is literal "dead letter" exegesis. This exegetical and hermeneutical traffic jam has constipated church travel and has resulted in much spiritual road rage where the image of a wrathful God still largely prevails.

And this is why so few are enjoying the Bible. However, if we will go back and see HOW the church fathers actually read, then we will be liberated to better understand how they wrote. They would encourage us to see their texts as "open" and multi-varied in interpretive meaning, some of which they themselves were not even consciously aware of at the time they wrote it.
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Let the Spirit be the teacher who leads us to the text rather than reading, and demanding to be taught "on the spot".

If simply put "being led by the Spirit" then it still drives the old readers and thinking in the same allegory understanding...so Jesus and Paul makes it clear for us... He said when He the spirit of Truth comes he will guide you into all the truth..How? Then he said he will take of mine and reveal me to you, so this defines the leading of the Spirit in the scriptures, that the context and content of the Spirit Revelation Knowledge will only be of Jesus Christ, so in understanding any allegory, metaphor, images or symbols, the center board foundation or screenshot must focus on Christ, otherwise you will be lost in the same shoes like the writers, so Peter speaking in his first Epistle, said the prophets and Angels were trying to understand what they were saying... Paul then repeated the Question from one of the prophet "who knows neither understand the mind or thoughts of the Lord that he might instruct him or speak back to Him? Then the concluded no one can Question God because we don't know his mind, his thoughts and ways are higher than us and past finding out and this is where a lot of people are lost today in what they understood as the leading of the Spirit in the scriptures.....but then Paul answered the prophets that "we have the mind, thoughts and understanding of Christ" John repeated the same by saying "the Son of God was manifested and he has given us an understanding of God" So in all understanding of the scriptures, the compass of guide for the Spirit is the Son of God or Christ, if it's not him, then you are lost in the minds of the writers and Wherefore reading your own mind and thoughts to the scriptures. Thank you for this wonderful piece of writing...it shows us how far the church has come in its learning.

And Jesus said of John the baptiser, "he was the greatest prophet", so it appears that even Jesus gave different weight to various levels of understandings that came through the prophets. Jesus' words give permission to filter the "inspired" Word.

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2 weeks ago

The Goodness of God

Here is a thought experiment on divine violence.

If I told you God told me to kill scores of men, women and children, you would most likely not believe me.

Similarly, if I told you God wanted me to tell YOU to kill scores of men, women and children, you also would think I was bonkers at worst and misguided at best. You would seriously doubt my current clarity of understanding as God's nature revealed in Jesus Christ.

Even if I was a well known man of God whom you trusted and respected, you STILL wouldn't believe me if I started passing out homicidal assignments to you from the Lord. You would instead presume I had seriously distorted or mis-processed a divine impulse. Whatever the Lord may have originally and authentically sent me, you would NOW be convinced I had subsequently polluted it with my own wrath and bitterness. This would be the case regardless of whether if it were Billy Graham, Bill Johnson, the Pope, or even Mother Theresa who was doing the claiming.

The reason for your reactions? Because you know Jesus SIMPLY doesn't roll that way. Like Jesus rebuking James and John for cruelly wanting Him to call down killing-fire on all the Samaritans just like Elijah did in the Old Testament, you would know that I knew NOT what Spirit I was "of" because Jesus came not to kill men but to save them. Luke 9:52-56.

Let's go a bit further with our thought experiment...

If I were to tell you God was seeking to wrathfully destroy you, but that I, that is to say "me, myself and I," graciously interceded and talked God into being merciful, and that He thereby relented and repented of His evil wrath toward you, all because of me, what would you think? Maybe that I'm crazy? Or perhaps that I was egocentrically misinterpreting events by making myself seem like the hero of the story?

Well, at the very least, you would feel that I was misrepresenting the character of God. You would know this because of the loving nature of God which Jesus reveals. You would know that it's impossible to imagine ANY man talking Jesus out of killing or destroying ANYBODY because He would never do that in the first place. You would quickly conclude that it was outrageous for me to EVER portray to ANYBODY, even for one moment, that "I" have MORE mercy than God, MORE patience than God, MORE kindness than God, and MORE wisdom than God.

This seems so obvious, doesn't it? My version of events where I am the one who convinced God of not destroying you is patently ridiculous. God is not some "rabid" deity who is "foaming at the mouth" with fury. God is not a raging killer who WE have to talk INTO mercy. Sheesh!

So, under my proposed thought experiment, its obvious we wouldn't believe anybody who told us to kill in God's name TODAY, not even Billy Graham, not even the Pope, not even Mother Theresa if she still lived. Our refusal to believe that they were hearing God correctly would be based, of course, on what we all intuitively know of Jesus' non-violent nature as revealed in the Gospels and by the Holy Spirit's inner witness.

So, if we wouldn't believe the prophets of TODAY if they were to claim God was ordering "homicidal hits" on men , women and children, then WHY on earth would we believe somebody who told us the same things YESTERDAY, namely the Old Testament leaders of their day? Jesus didn't change natures. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He loves His enemies, He doesn't kill them. He overcomes evil with good. Matthew 5:38-48. God doesn't hand out "death warrants" to us on men, women and children, back then or now.

And yet. And yet. And yet. There are numerous instances in a "literal" reading of the Old Testament where Moses, Joshua and Samuel told the Israelites did exactly that. They claimed that God commanded them to mercilessly kill other men, women and children. Deuteronomy 2:32-35; 3:3-7; Numbers 31:7-18; Joshua 6:20-21; 1 Samuel 15:1-9.

The Old Testament, in its "by the letter" reading, also tells us that Abraham (Genesis 18:16-33) and Moses (Exodus 32:9-14) and David (1 Chronicles 21:14-17) all claimed that they themselves had to talk God out of His murderous ways on multiple occasions. They each claimed THEY talked God out of His murderous intent to destroy millions of people.

Moses claims he talked God into "repenting over the killing evils He thought to do to His people." Similarly, Abraham claims he got God to agree to stop His proposed destruction of Sodom and Gomorra IF the lesser number of ten righteous men were found there, as opposed to God's original quota and sterner requirement of fifty. Lastly, David rebuked God that He was wrongly punishing and killing others en masse for a sin David alone had committed, and that therefore God needed to show mercy to His people.

Something crucial is lacking in the Old Testament view of God. They were living off Tree of the Knowing God as BOTH Good and Evil. Had they known what we NOW know BECAUSE we have partaken of Jesus as the New Covenant Tree of Life, they would never again claim that they had to "talk" God into forgiveness. They would never NOW claim that THEY were the compassionate ones who talked God into "repenting of His evil," or "staying His wrathful hand," or "showing mercy to His people by not killing them."

Are we better than God, more merciful, more patient, more loving, more humane? Of course not!

We know better NOW, thanks to the nature revealed in the life and character of Jesus Christ, along with New Testament Holy Spirit illumination, that Satan, not God, is the Old Testament killer. Satan, not God, is the death angel, the destroyer, the minister of all destructive wrath, the father of all lies and lust, the ruler of this fallen world, the prince of the power of the air, the great dragon, in whose power the whole corrupted world lies.

Jesus came to destroy the works of Satan, not to inflict them. Jesus came to reveal that the Old Testament had a fundamental flaw, a blind-spot in their view of God. Hebrews 8:7 clearly says the Old Testament was NOT flawless. Hebrews 8:7. Whereas the Old Testament portrayed Satan as the obedient left hand of a wrathful God, Jesus came to reveal a vastly different picture of Satan. Jesus unveiled Satan as a rabid cosmic rebel operating without Divine sanction or approval, human sanction and approval yes, but NOT Divine.

The Old Testament saints had an UNDIFFERENTIATED view of God, which ultimately produced death. They did not know that the love nature of God was totally divorced from the wrath nature of Satan. They simply viewed the works of Satan as the wrath of God. So, we now know that the three passages discussed above where Abraham, Moses, and David are all portrayed as being more merciful than God---- are simply Old Testament distortions in need of New Testament light. God is the one who ALWAYS talks us into being merciful, not vice- versa.

And let's be honest. Who REALLY gets the glory when WE claim to be the ones who talk God out of mass killing sprees. WE get the glory, not God.

Anytime the Bible portrays men as being MORE merciful and compassionate than God, rest assured distortion is present. And God wants us, by the Holy Ghost, to see these occasional distortions and correct them with the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ. To God be ALL the glory!

We don't talk God out of killing. He talks US out of killing.

We don't convince God to stay His wrath. He convinces us to forsake OURS.

We don't implore God to heal those oppressed of the devil. He implores US to heal them with the keys of the kingdom we have already been given.

Prayer is not getting God to change His will. Prayer is getting US to change our will to better align with His.

Let me be clear. I am not saying the Old Testament saints were intentionally lying or purposely misrepresenting what God was trying to tell them, only that they partially mis-processed the divine impulses they originally received by adding their own wrath to the Lord's original word. Just like a funhouse mirror distorts the true image of what stands before it, we can partially distort a divine word because of the warps on our being.

One can readily see an example of this in the life of Moses, where God once told him to SPEAK a miracle word to a "rock" in the dessert so that it would supernaturally spout water to bless the parched Israelites. But, Moses instead struck the rock in anger while verbally condemning the Israelites. This gave the people the WRONG impression that God was wrathful when in fact He was nothing of the sort. God called this misrepresentation of His character by Moses the "failure to sanctify His name." Sadly, this sin dynamic is what kept Moses from entering the Promised Land. Numbers 20:7-12.

The amazing bottom line? The Old Testament wrath and violence attributed to God was, in fact, the wrath and violence of Satan (regardless whether we see him as a dark destroying angel or a dark destructive dynamic). Do we really think Satan was twiddling his demonic thumbs in the Old Testament while God Himself was operating Satan's ministry of wrath, accusation, temptation, oppression and condemnation? That the very things the New Testament NOW says Satan does, were nonetheless somehow in the Old Testament done directly by God?

No way!

Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He changeth not. The only thing that's changed is our BETTER understanding of God's BETTER nature under our BETTER Covenant. It's time to trade the Old Testament "letter" for the New Testament "better." Jesus is our upgrade.
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Wow. . . I 've never thought like this! Excellent! Very dangerously interesting religious detox !

Reading this understanding while blasting in tongues with joy unspeakable full of Glory, this has uncovered all the old testament Prophets including their Father Moses, Wow God in Jesus Christ is Revealed plainly Here...this is the Compass of Author (the SPIRIT) If Jesus told Peter away with your Sword, and then he told James and John away with your anger to call fire on people, we don't do this in our Kingdom he told his disciples and Pilate....then it's not the same Jesus Christ who told Abraham, Moses, Joshua, the judges, Samuel, David and the rest to kill...this puts a question of him being the same yesterday, today and FOREVER...this implies he is a changeable God in Character and Nature Thank you for this Piece Permission to share and repost

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2 weeks ago

The Goodness of God

The ontology of "the devil and his angels" is a real issue today. Some say Satan is a dark angel, an ontological "who." Others say Satan is dark dynamic, a non-ontological "what." But here's a new twist you have may not have heard before. Some early fathers actually believed and balanced BOTH positions.

How on earth could that be? Can Satan be both ontological and non-ontological at the same time? Some of the fathers appeared to say yes.

Ilaria L.E. Ramelli, in her recent book, "The Christian Doctrine of Apokatastasis: A Critical Assessment from the New Testament to Eriugena," discusses just such a view from Isaac of Syria, who in fact believed that the appellations "devil" and "demons" were attached to creatures who were FORMERLY rational and thus at one time did possess ontology, but that in their subsequent spiritual degradation had now descended into non-being. Nonetheless, these now vacuous creatures will, in the ages to come, actually repent of the evil they have done and then be restored by God to their former ontological identities.

Thus, what Isaac actually taught was that it was evil, and by extension evil identities, which lacked a full ontology. Evil, by its very nature, causes a privation of being in its doer. Evil has no ground of actual being in other words, but rather is a vacuum or void of being. Thus, when any rational creature, be it angel or human, turns their will away from God, they then don a false mask, a forged fig leaf behind which to hide from God, an evil plasticized persona of non-being.

So, according to Issac, it's the TITLES "demons" and "devil" that lack ontology, NOT the formerly rational creations who have stripped themselves of their original actual being. In other words, the devil and his demons were not created as such, hence those titles lack ontology, but became as such by assuming a posture turned wholly from God. What they were before becoming demons or devil they would become so again in the Apocatastasis.

Here is Ramelli's summation:

"Isaac states that even condemnation to Gehenna includes a mystery, that with which God will transform evilness, the fruit of bad choices of human freewill, into a means to accomplish his salvific plan, which remains unknownto all rational creatures, especially those who, 'HUMANS OR DEMONS,' are suffering in Gehenna, 'for the whole period that the suffering lasts.' This clearly means that suffering in Gehenna will last for a certain period and will come to an end, both for human beings and even for demons. This is what Gregory of Nyssa and Evagrius also thought. Isaac’s subsequent observationsin 39,22 are still more revealing: he, just like Origen and Nyssen, bases his argument for the apokatastasis on 'what is worthy of God,' 'what becomes God'.

If we said or thought that what concerns Gehenna is not in fact full of love and mixed with compassion, this would be an opinion full of blasphemy and abuse against God our Lord. If we even say that God will hand us to fire in order to make us suffer, to torment us, and for every kind of evil, we attribute to the divine nature hostility toward the rational creatures that God has created by grace, and the same is the case if we affirm that God acts or thinks out of spite,as though he sought vengeance. Among all of his deeds, there is none that is not entirely dictated by mercy, love, and compassion. This is the beginning and the end of God’s attitude toward us.

'Through Gehenna, both SINNERS AND DEMONS will attain salvation. For “we cannot say that God’s love for those rational creatures who have become demons due to their demonic deeds diminishes […] because God’s nature does not nourish a love that depends on events that take place in time” (Second Part 40,2). The purifying and saving torments in Gehenna are nothing but the effect of God’s love on sinners: while it produces delight in the righteous, it produces “love torments” in sinners, as these realise that they have sinned against love' (First Part 27,201–202).

According to Isaac, demons are rational creatures that HAVE BECOME demons for their evil works, just as it was maintained by Origen, Gregory Nyssen, and Evagrius; they are not a separate nature that is the specific expression of evil. For evil is ontologically non-subsistent. Therefore, the very name 'Satan' does not indicate a being that is evil by nature, but rather the deviation of human free will from the Truth” (Hom. 26,B189)." Ilaria L.E. Ramelli, The Christian Doctrine of Apokatastasis: A Critical Assessment from the New Testament to Eriugena, Page 762-763. EMPHASIS ADDED.

So who WAS the devil, ontologically speaking, prior to his conversion to evil? Who WERE the devils, ontologically speaking, prior to their conversion to evil? I think the following New Testament passages establish that their ontology was angelic.

"And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, CALLED THE DEVIL, and SATAN, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and HIS ANGELS were cast out with him." Revelation 12:9.

"Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the DEVIL and his ANGELS " Matthew 25:41.

"Don't you know that we shall judge ANGELS? how much more things that pertain to this life?" 1 Corinthians 6:3.

As for Satan's transformation and degradation into non-being, let's consider Origen's third century understanding and see how similar it is to Isaac's view described above of how rational creatures BECOME non-ontological, this particular example having to do with Satan's previous identity : "Concerning another opposing power, we are taught the following by the prophet Isaiah: the prophet says, 'How is Lucifer, who used to arise in the morning, fallen from heaven?'... Most evidently by these words a being is shown to have fallen from heaven-- he who formerly was Lucifer, and used to arise in the morning. For if he originally had a nature of darkness (as some think), how is it said that Lucifer existed this way before? Or how could he arise in the morning-- if he had in himself nothing of the light? Nay, even the Savior Himself teaches us, saying of the devil, 'Behold, I see Satan fallen from heaven like lightning.' For at one time he was light. Origen (c.225, E), 4.259.

And Origen again, "Lucifer, star of the morning, fell from heaven to be warred against ... by Jesus." Origen (c.228, E), 9.304.

Finally, Origen's succinct summary of Satan's state is stated here, "In respect of the devil, he is NOT the work of God. Yet, he who is a created being. Since there is no other Creator except our God, he IS (nonetheless) a work of God." Origen (c.228, E), 4.372. Here we see the same idea Issac presented. Satan once had "being," as Lucifer, when he was his original angelic self. But, once Lucifer misused his creaturely freedom to rebel against the divine, he created a vacuum of being in which his true self was thereafter imprisoned in dormancy.

So, we see both Origen and Isaac presenting a view of rational creatures BECOMING non-ontological husks of themselves. A modern cultural icon to be conceptually analogized to this process is the "zombie." Nobody is created as a zombie. But they BECOME zombies when they become void of life. The term "zombie" is non-ontological term describing "the walking dead," an ontological nullity if there ever was one. Nonetheless zombies, in reality, go about doing much destructive evil against ontological beings.

Irenaeus also considered Satan to be of angelic origin. (C. 180, E/W), 1.524. Tertullian likewise agreed with Origen that Satan was created good as the angel Lucifer and prefigured in the Old Testament as the king of Tyre. "For He [God] made the angel good after the fashion of His good works. Indeed, before he became the devil, he stood forth as the wisest of creatures. And wisdom is no evil. If you turn to the prophecy of Ezekiel, you will at once realize that this angel was good by creation, but became corrupt. For in the person of the prince of Tyre, it says things in reference to the devil." (c. 207, W), 3.305.

Origen's analysis of the Ezekiel passage is similar:

"We find in the prophet Ezekiel two prophecies written to the king of Tyre.... The second is clearly of such a kind that it cannot be at all understood about a man. It must refer to some superior power who had fallen away from a higher position and had been reduced to a lower and worse condition. I will take it from an illustration by which it is may be demonstrated with the utmost clearness that those opposing and malignant spiritual powers were not formed or created by nature. Rather they fell from a better place to a worse position and were converted into wicked beings....

'From the day when you were created with the cherubim, I placed you in the holy mountain of God.' Who could so water down the meaning of this passage so as to suppose that this language was referring to some man or saint-- not to mention the price of Tyre? Who could imagine that any man could live in the midst of fiery stones? Who could be supposed to to be stainless from the very day of his creation, wickedness only being discovered in him at a later time? No, this must be said of someone who was cast down to earth....

I have shown, then, that what I have quoted concerning the prince of Tyre from the prophet Ezekiel refers to an adverse power. And it clearly shows that this power once was holy and happy. Yet, he fell from this state of happiness from the time that evil was found in him. So, he was hurled to the earth. Yet, this evil was not found in him by nature or by creation. I am of the opinion that these words are spoken of a certain angel who had received the office of governing the nation of Tyre." Origen (c.225,E), 4.258, 259.

On the issue of the early church's beliefs on the ontology of Satans and the fallen powers, let me close with a quote by Jeffrey Burton Russell from his book, Satan: the Early Church Tradition. Russel has probably written more scholarly books on the history of the evolution of Satan in human thought than any other author. "The church fathers moved decisively in the direct of defining the Devil as a fallen angel."(Russell, page 30).

In this way, it appears the church fathers had a view of Satan and the fallen powers by which they saw them as FORMERLY possessing angelic ontology prior to their rebellion, but NOW, due to their degradation from their sin, had become devoid of such ontology. In other words, the devil and his angels have now become the equivalent of zombies, the walking dead, hollow phantoms staggering around in the unseen seeking to infect all of creation with the same pathogen from which they suffer-- death and non-being. Thank God, Jesus is the inoculation of eternal life, a perfect cure "leavening" even now throughout all creation to restore fullness of being to all.
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2 weeks ago

The Goodness of God

The only thing Jesus tortures is the concept of "torture" itself.

He tortures it with an opposite Spirit.

He tortures it with enemy-love and enemy-blessing.

And by so doing, Jesus heaps cathartic coals of conviction on the soul of every enemy to help tenderize their hearts and renew their minds toward both God and neighbor.
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