Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

My Reminder…

Richard C. Halverson, though I never knew him, is a hero of mine. His work and words have impacted my life. As I remember him in this month of Thanksgiving, I thank God for him. I recently posted one of his devotionals from his bi-weekly devotional letter “Perspective”. I’d like to post another today. I only wish I could find the proper entity to get permission for using his work. My efforts at this have rendered nothing so far. Should you be aware of who I might contact, please inform me. I’d be indebted.

So good to remember that…

Jesus Christ transcends all religions! Judaism, Islam, Buddhism Hinduism…

He is greater than all these – including Christianity.

Religions are inventions of men. They may begin with a great leader in mind – Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha…

But human tradition soon reduces the original to a mere set of ethical standards and a dead letter of the law which no one can follow.

The original sin was not murder, adultery or any other action we call sin. The original sin was, and still is, the human choice to be one’s own god – to control one’s own life – to be in charge – to be religious!

Rising out of this choice evolves religion: man’s attempt to please god.

Jesus transcends religion because He is the incarnation of all that is true, good, loving, gentle, tender, thoughtful, caring, courteous and selfless.

Jesus does not want you to become a Christian. He wants you to become a new creation! There is a great difference between the two.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, He is a new creation: Old things are passed away; behold, all things are new.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)

From “Perspective” by Richard C. Halverson – August 12, 1996


Do You Meet Minium Requirements?

A co-worker came into work the other day and matter-of-factly proclaimed:

“I met the minimum requirements of motherhood this morning.”

I had to chuckle.  We all have some set of minimum requirements we believe we need to meet in order to survive each day.

But there are also a set of minimum requirements that others depend upon us to meet in order for their own survival.  If we do not nurture and care for our young, their chances of surviving in this world go down significantly.  And the younger the offspring, the less their odds for survival.  There are those in the world that are critically ill or injured that have a minimum requirement upon others for their survival.  If they do not have some very basic needs met in their lives, their odds for survival begin to plummet dramatically.  And we all depend upon others in some way or fashion.  How many of us in the world today could get by without a grocery store for food?  If your livelihood depends upon a vehicle, could you manufacture your own fuel and parts?  How many of us could provide for our own clothing and shelter?  What would our world look like and what would we, as humans be like, if we were all suddenly responsible for our own set of minimum requirements?

These questions become all the more intriguing when considered from our base world views.

For the Atheist it presents a fairly severe conundrum.    There is no meaning, after all, the entire universe is simply a petri dish of chemical and physical actions and reactions.  The fact that the majority of us seem to do our part is some outrageous statistic that is difficult to fathom at best.  Even great minds like Dr. Richard Dawkins and Dr. Stephen Hawking have stated that the appearance of order within the universe and our lives is, in fact, an illusion.  The idea that we would all just happen to come together and work towards some greater goal of survival is statistically unimaginable.  Where did this magical inner drive come from?  What is it within the natural universe that drives a process towards propagation of a species (or kind)?  The Atheist is hard pressed to find an answer within the confines of their own world view.

For the Agnostic it really doesn’t matter what the answer is or where the drive to meet any set of minimum requirements comes from.  The Agnostic simply tolerates the status quo as it meets their own set of needs and desires.  If the Agnostic finds that any one set of their basic minimum requirements is not being met, they might become anxious, or desperate, or angry, but they couldn’t really tell you why.  Nor should they care if they are truly agnostic in their world view.  Why should the Agnostic care if suddenly the portion of the world’s food supply that they depend upon were to stop?  Sure it would threaten their very survival, but they are, after all, agnostic.  And for the Agnostic, Que sera sera, whatever will be, will be.

For the Theist however, the drive to meet some set of basic minimum requirements for both ourselves, and for others, takes on a whole new meaning.  It is only within the Spiritual that we find real answers to the questions as to why we need to protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Which is exactly why the founding fathers of the United States of America prescribed these basic unalienable rights as having come from God.  Because from whom else could they come?  Certainly I could not grant such rights to you, nor could you grant them to me.  And we cannot collectively grant them to each other.  Which is why governments of the world who set themselves up as the arbitrators of such rights fail and become oppressive to the people.  The Theist also recognizes that just as they have been granted these rights from a living God, they have an obligation outside of themselves or the rest of creation to protect these rights in and for others.  The Theist must meet a set of basic minimum requirements for both themselves and others because their God expects no less.  The mere fact that a God, a Creator, outside of our limited physical existence, has granted us life and given to us the pursuit of liberty and happiness, demands that we honor the Creator by protecting and preserving the minimum requirements  of life, liberty, and happiness in the lives of those around us.  It becomes our sacred honor and duty to do so.

However, as important as these questions are, and as critical the preponderance of our answers to them is, they are not what I want to settle upon today.

There is one greater question that faces all of humanity, from Adam and Eve to each and every person alive today.  It is a minimum requirement that every person that has ever lived, is living today, or ever shall live, faces in their own life.  And it is a minimum requirement that none of us can meet of our own accord.  We are all dependent upon a another to meet this requirement in our lives, and it is a requirement that, sadly, the vast majority of humanity never has, and never will, give careful consideration to.

It is the question of Why?  What?  And Where?  Why are you here?  What is your purpose?  What is the meaning of it all?  And Where will you end up for all of eternity?

There is one very eloquent answer to these questions.  It is found in the Bible, in John, Chapter 3, and Verse 16.  And that answer is:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 (KJV)

The minimum requirement to understanding why we are here, what the purpose of life is, and to securing our place in all of eternity, is to simply Believe on the Person of Jesus Christ.  That He is who He claimed to be, the Son of the Living God, and that He came to pay the price for all my sins by dying on the cross and rising from the dead on the third day.

A very important question, critical to each of all our eternities, and it has such a simple minimum requirement.  Believe on Him.

How about you?  Have you met your basic minimum requirements for today?  More importantly, have you met THE basic minimum requirement for all of eternity?

Are You Good Enough To Get Into Heaven?

A question that I have asked a few times in the past on this blog deals with exploring why there is evil in the world.  I’ve asked this question both from the standpoint of why God allows bad things to happen to good people and why God allows evil in the world if he is indeed a good and gracious God.

However, a question that is seldom explored, and one that I have rarely, if ever, heard espoused from a theological standpoint is Can an evil person commit good acts?  Most purveyors of the Gospel of Jesus Christ seek to point out mankind’s sin.  That we are fallen creatures.  And that we are separated from a Just and Holy God.

The Bible explains that we cannot have any hope of eternal life save from the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God’s Son.  And the entire reason that sacrifice was (and is) necessary is because we are a fallen creation.  That is, all of humankind is sinful.  We have violated God’s law, and are worthy of death, which is an eternity in Hell.

And thus evangelists, those that seek to spread the Good News that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, with the hope of winning souls (changing lives) for His Kingdom and His Glory, are apt to explain the state of mankind.  And that state is a separated, sinful state.  But the Good News is that we need not suffer the penalty of that state because the price has already been paid for us.  By God himself.  As only he could.

I’ll return to that in a moment.  But before I do, perhaps you are one of the many who has wondered what in the world you have ever done to deserve God’s wrath.  Perhaps you have wondered, if indeed the Bible is true (and I assure you it is), why God’s standard is so high as to condemn all who have lived, who live, or who ever will live.

In other words, why would God’s grand design be one in which we cannot win?

The genesis of this question, whether we recognize it or not, comes from putting ourselves (humankind) at the center of the equation and not God.  We want to consider things from our point of view and not His.  But the creation should never try and explain the rules to the Creator.  Rather we should seek to understand Him and His purpose, His plan, and His grand design.  We can never understand it apart from Him because He is the one who put it all into motion.  Not us.

And when we consider things from our point of view we begin to reason that yes, perhaps I have lied, but they were only little white lies.  No one got hurt by them.  They were not some atrocious acts of evil that altered the world.  After all, the vast majority of us who have ever lived can honestly say that we have not murdered anyone.  And therefore we are mostly good and only a little bad, and thus we are not really deserving of Hell, and if there is a God (and I assure you there is) He will look favorably on us because we tried really hard and did more good than we ever did bad.

In doing so, we fail to consider things from God’s point of view.  God never, ever, once (that I am aware of) asked if we had told an egregious lie, only if we had lied.  Whatever that lie may have been.  And God never, ever, once applied some scale of good and evil to our state of sin.  Only whether we had, or had not sinned.  And the Bible clearly states that ALL have sinned (and thus come short of the Glory of God).

This then creates what many may think is a paradox.  How is it, that humankind, who is sinful in nature, can do so much good in the world?  If I am so bad, why is it I am so good?  Can one who is evil in nature, find it in their heart to do good in the world?

The Bible, not surprisingly, has an answer to that question.  No one would disagree that there is good in the world.  Of course there is.  But to place ourselves at the center of that good is a fallacy and leads us down a very dangerous path.

Paul of Tarsus explained it this way in Romans 8:18-24:  We are told that it is God who shows mercy and lifts up those who falter.  Even when we sin against God himself, God works His plan for good: Genesis 50:20.  Paul further asks the question:

21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonor?  22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:  23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,  24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? (Romans 9:21-24, KJV).

Paul, after telling us in Romans chapter 8 that we are all sinners who have fallen short of the Glory of God, tells us in Romans chapter 9 that we cannot even lay claim to the good that is in the world as it is God, and God alone, that shows His mercy in us by allowing His good works to be wrought in us.

So are we good enough to get into Heaven?  Most decidedly No.  Not when perceived from God’s point of view.  But are we without hope, being placed in a no-win situation by the very Creator who set His great plan into motion in the first place?  Of course not.  You, and I, and everyone else, have been given the free choice of belief.  We simply need to believe in Him, Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the great work he did upon the Cross in order to redeem us from our sin.

Why?  Because it is all about Him, and not about us.  It is for His Honor, and His Glory, and for Him to receive Praise.

We simply need to stop making it about ourselves, and start making it all about Him.

A Final Thought on HELL

In my last three posts I’ve espoused quite a bit on the subject of Hell.  I’d like to take a final (for now) post to summarize and add a few concepts that I’ve not had the opportunity to cover in those posts.

I’ve had the great honor and privilege to sit under and be taught by some great men of God.  One of these individuals was Dr. Darrell Orman (no physical relation to me, although we certainly have a Spiritual relation), Pastor of First Baptist Church of Stuart Florida.  These individuals have taught me how to study and discern not only the truths of Scripture, but of the world around me.  And this has then translated into the development of my world view (essentially my theology).  Usually when you look at a building you do not see the foundation that it is sitting upon.  So you do not see the footers that were dug and poured that form the basis for holding that building up.  The same is true for an individual’s life.  You may not always see the foundation for which I base my arguments on, but I at least want you to have a clear enough picture to be able to discern for yourself their validity or their ineffectiveness. I’ll attempt to provide some of those insights here.

I’ve stated that I believe Hell is a finality.  It is an end state that is eternal.  In Isaiah 66:22-24 the prophet writes that the New Heavens and the New Earth which the Lord will make shall remain before Him.  A reference to the end state of humanity.  God says that one day this Earth (present day) and the Heavens above it will pass away and He will make a New Heavens and a New Earth to replace them and that the new creation will remain before him, that is it will exist forever and ever.  This is referenced again by John in Revelation 21:1.  Personally I think this is pretty exciting.  During the first Creation (Genesis 1) you and I were not around to witness the great work that God did.  But the second time around, I get a front row seat.  Imagine being able to witness first hand the Glory and the Splendor of all of Creation being brought into existence right before our very eyes.  How awesome will that be?  But also note what will transpire in that new Heaven and Earth.  Once a week and once a month God will bring all flesh (you and I) before Him, and those that are His children will go forth and look upon those that have transgressed (Sinned) against Him.  I believe this is God’s baseline.  His constant reminder to us of the great work he has done for us.  We will never, ever forget the great Mercy, and Grace, and Love he has shown us and the great work he performed on our behalf.  Hell is a finality (for all of eternity) because an eternal Hell balances an eternal Heaven.  Just as God’s great Mercy is for all of eternity, so is His great Judgement for all of eternity.  That is why this life is so precious and important.  The choices we make now will impact us for all of eternity.

I’ve also stated that Hell is God’s holding place (prison) for Sin.  The passage in Isaiah tells us that those who have transgressed against him (along with this passage in Revelation 20:10-15) will be imprisoned there and that they will not die.  I have heard theologians teach that everyone, part of God’s family or not (we would say the saved and the unsaved) will receive a new, incorruptible body.  Those in Hell will remain there and they will not die because their incorruptible bodies will not succumb to the fire.  But at the same time, they will not experience relief from that fire.  This is not a foreign concept to us. Most countries today have individuals that they imprison for life with no chance of parole.  If we, as humanity can see fit to imprison those within society that we deem unworthy of freedom, how much more can a Holy and Just God see fit to imprison those who have transgressed against him for all of eternity?

I’ve stated that we (humanity) are faced with a choice as to where our destiny lies.  Essentially the question that Nicodemus asked of Jesus Christ as recorded in John.  And Jesus’ answer, in John 3:16 tells us that we simply need to believe in Him. Jesus tells us that we have that choice to make.  We may believe in Him and have eternal Life, or we may reject Him and join the vessels of dishonor in Hell.

I’ve stated that God allowed us (humanity) to be immersed in that which was not Him in order that we could truly make that choice for His Honor and His Glory.  This is a theological conclusion on my part and is based on us being joint heirs with Jesus (Romans 8:17) having suffered through being transgressors of God and bought and paid for with a price that He paid.  And from this standpoint, Hell is a part of God’s great plan.

A great many people in the world today think that Christianity wants to threaten them with the prospect of Hell.  Many want to turn Hell into a threat that God makes in order to get us to do what He wants us to do (if you don’t do good you’ll go to Hell).  Nothing could be further from the truth.  God doesn’t need to threaten us to have us do his will.  He is, after all, God.  Hell is not a threat, it is a consequence.  It was not created for us and we have to choose to end up there.  It is however, very much a reality and an integral part of God’s great plan.  In order to show us who He is, God first chose to show us who He is NOT.  And that required a place to keep that which God cannot have within his presence, Sin.  And thus we have Hell.

Hell makes perfect theological sense if you work it through.  But the only way you will escape it is through the person of Jesus Christ and his death on the Cross.  You cannot escape it by explaining away its existence as the Evolutionists try to do.  You cannot escape it by ignoring it as the Agnostics try to do.  And you cannot escape it though your own good works and efforts.  You must be rescued from it by Jesus Christ himself through belief in Him.

I truly hope that you realize you need to place your trust in the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and believe in Him so that you do not spend an eternity in the finality that is a very real Hell.

Hell: Is it For You or Me?

In my last couple of posts I’ve espoused the idea that Hell is God’s holding place for Sin for all of eternity.  But I haven’t fully explored what that entails.  Particularly, will we (humanity) find ourselves there?  It is a reasonable question after all, because we know there is evil in the world and if Hell is God’s prison for evil, will we (any or all of us) find ourselves there?

Unsurprisingly, this question haunts a lot of individuals in the world today.  Dr. Stephen Hawking is so disturbed by it, he has devoted his life to trying to answer it.  And if you think I stretch the bounds of reason here, look at the last few pages of his book The Grand Design. S.W.Hawking and L. Mlodinov (Sep 2010), ISBN-13: 978-0553805376.  Look at the last few pages of the vast majority of any Evolutionist’s book.  They usually conclude with the thought that if evolution is true, there is no God, and if there is no God, there is no Heaven, and by contrast, if there is no Heaven, there is no Hell.  Ahhhhh finally!!  We’ve escaped Hell.  The Evolutionist’s means of escaping Hell is by disproving it.  By-the-way, the Agnostic’s means of escaping Hell is to ignore it (after all, what do they care?  An Agnostic is impartial by definition).  The Theist however escapes Hell by trying to understand it.  It is up to you as to which path you choose.

The Creator’s answer is yes, some of humanity will find themselves locked away in Hell for all of eternity.  Jesus Christ himself told the story of a certain rich man who found himself in a place of torment (Hell) in Luke 16:19-31.  Here we have a man alive on the earth who died and found himself in Hell.  So if we are to take the Creator’s word for it, the answer would seem to be yes, we (humanity) can definitely end up in Hell.

However, knowing that mankind can end up in Hell, does not necessarily mean that Hell was created for mankind.  Actually Peter tells us that it is God’s desire that none should perish (2 Peter 3:9).  In other words, God does not desire to see anyone in Hell.  That doesn’t sound to me like God created Hell for humanity.  Rather that he is saddened that some of humanity gets swept into Hell along with the rest of the evil host.

I was asked to lead a singles Bible study about 16 years ago in Fort Lauderdale, Florida,  One of the members of that study asked me what I thought the difference between angels and humans was.  The question really boiled down to whether or not an angel could experience mercy and grace. I do not (personally) believe they can.  We are two different types of vessels,  In the case of humanity, we have the distinct privilege of being made in God’s own image. When God created us, He made family, His family,  I, for one, am more than happy being the weaker of the vessels.  An angel will never know the honor and the privilege of being a part of the family of God.  Angels certainly get to watch God’s plan play out on a stage and an scale I could only hope to understand.  But that is not worth trading to be a part of the family of God,

So I believe that God created Hell for the vessels of dishonor He created for the purpose of introducing Sin into creation.  Mankind was created as God’s very own family and then was allowed to be put to the test with that Sin.  Adam, on behalf of all of mankind (yeah, I know, but before you give Adam a bum rap, consider that you or I would have done no different), failed that test,.  And God then had to set his plan into motion to rescue us by paying the price for that Sin in our stead.  Had we never been in that Sinful state we wouldn’t have needed rescuing, and by not being rescued we would have never known God’s Mercy, and Grace, and Love.

A few years ago, Rev. Rick Warren wrote a book titled The Purpose Driven Life.  You may take several things away from that book, but the one thing that kept hitting me in the face was It’s not about me, it’s all about God.  People keep asking question like “If God did not want anyone to perish, why didn’t he just put us all into Heaven to begin with?”  Well, it is His show, His plan, His design, and it is for His Glory and His Honor.  It is all to Glorify Him.  And that alone is good enough for me.  But my theology also allows me to reason that perhaps God wanted a family that actually knows Him on a personal level, that understands His Mercy and His Grace.  And knows of His Love like none other in all of creation.  And that required us to know what was NOT Him to begin with.

But God did not want just want dedicated servants.  I believe he has those with the Angels.  Both the ones created to serve His purpose in good, and those created to serve His purpose in evil.  No, God wanted his family to choose Him because they desired to of their own free will.  And thus he gave us a choice.,  We may choose.   Choose rightly, and spend eternity in Heaven, choose wrongly and spend eternity in Hell.

Astute theologians should recognize at this point that we have a paradox,.  The Youth Pastor and Worship Leader of my home church growing up pointed out to me that perhaps I was asleep during certain studies and that there actually is a study of these paradoxes in theology,  My Youth Pastor was Rev. Mitch White and he has been a great friend and mentor over the years.  The study he recently introduced me to is antinomy, literally two competing but equally true ideas.

I don’t know how it is that God can be 100% in control and that at exactly the same time you and I have the free will to live our lives and to either choose or reject Him.  Louie Giglio said in one his Passion Series that it is a great mystery that God can be completely in control and mankind can have free will at exactly the same time.  We cannot resolve or know all paradoxes in this life.  But I do know this, you and I have a choice, and that choice is Heaven or Hell.  And the choice is final, for all of eternity.

Hell: A Finality?  Very much so.  I would surmise that it takes an eternal Hell to offset an eternal Heaven.  I choose to believe on Jesus Christ, that He is The Way, The Truth, and The Life.  I believe with all my heart that I have chosen wisely.

Consider the Wise Men (3 Kings)

There are many things that bother people about Christians, but seemingly the one single thing that people really key in on is a Christians insistence upon Jesus Christ being the ONLY way to Heaven.  People don’t like being told that there is only one way to do something.  As a matter-of-fact, if you want to alienate someone from you and have them mad at you for a long time, simply tell them that when they are with you, it is your way or the highway.

And yet Christians come along and do exactly that.  They tell people that the only way you can get into Heaven is through Jesus Christ and belief in him.

And there are a lot of theists around the world that don’t want to hear that.  There are also a lot of atheists around the world that are threatened by that.

The theistic people that are threatened by the claim that Jesus Christ is mankind’s only hope to see Heaven are angered by the fact that this then trumps their god.  They want to believe that Jesus Christ is A way to Heaven, but he is not the ONLY way to Heaven.  Buddhists want to believe that Buddha is a way to Heaven.  Muslims want to believe that Mohamed the prophet is a way to Heaven.  Hindus want to believe that everything is a way to Heaven.  And a lot of good folks just want to believe that they are the way to Heaven.  If I just live a good life and am kind, I will get into Heaven.

Atheistic people are threatened by the claim that Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven because they have some mistaken belief that this somehow limits their freedom or creates strife in the world.  This always amuses me greatly because it is generally these very people that have no problem whatsoever demanding that some cause they believe in be practiced, yet your cause cannot be because it encroaches upon peoples liberties.  An example of one of these causes might be abortion.  A cause that really does encroach upon my actual liberties.  A cause that costs me my tax dollars that I pay (I would never support abortion with my money unless forced to).  A cause that costs society in fractured lives (I could provide the stats if you doubt me here, but you can do the research yourself).  A cause that, in my humble point of view, legalizes the killing of innocent human beings (and before you jump on the bandwagon here, let me ask you, how in the world can these clinics be caught selling human body parts for research unless they are already developed?).  A cause that is affecting the very fabric of society, and yet when a Christian comes along and says that Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven, they immediately have to be silenced.  Even though the Christian’s statement costs nothing and it’s only effect of society is what others allow it to have.  Nothing is forced on them, it is not a statement that disrupts peoples lives (unless they allow it too), it is simply a statement that may be accepted or rejected.

But I digress.  Even agnostics seem threatened by the statement that Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to Heaven because they don’t like having their world disrupted by being told any absolutes.

Everyone appears to miss the fact that Christians are not making a claim on their own, rather they are repeating what they have been taught (and come to believe) by Jesus Christ himself.  It is not Christians who decided that Jesus Christ was the ONLY way to Heaven, it was Jesus Christ himself who made the statement:

“5 Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?  Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.  If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.  (John 14:5-7 King James Version (KJV))”

Jesus Christ made the statement that he was the only way to the Father (in Heaven) and he is the only one who ever has made this statement or could make this statement.  Buddha did not claim this, Mohamad did not claim this, not even Satan has claimed this, nor could they.  I believe God, as the author of truth, reserves this one claim for his Son and only his Son.

Suppose someone today were to make this claim.  A great world leader or an influential person who champions the cause of the poor and downtrodden.  Would you hold them credible?  I do not think you would.  There is one person, and only one person who ever could make this claim credibly.

But how do we know that Jesus Christ was credible in making this claim?  I believe there are many reasons, but consider this one – the Magi that came to Jesus as a young child bowed before him and worshipped him (Matthew 2).  They also brought him gifts of great value – gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Where did these Magi (whom have been referred to as Wise Men and Kings) come from?  Matthew tells us only that they came from the East.  A lot of Biblical scholars place their origin in Persia, India, and Babylon.

Why would kings or wise men of obvious influence during this time travel to a foreign land and seek out a young child born in a stable and bow before him and worship him?  Their people were not looking for a Messiah.  And they probably did not have a complete understanding of the Old Testament (hence their questions of Herod).  And their method of finding Jesus was through secular means.  They told Herod they had “seen his star in the East”.  Note that they prescribed to Jesus Christ his very own star.  And because of this they recognized him as King of the Jews and in the very act of finding him and worshipping him and presenting him with gifts of great value, they in effect recognized him as King of Kings.

Why is Jesus Christ’s claim to be the ONLY way to Heaven credible?  Well one compelling reason is because the leaders of the countries which birthed the other religions of the world came and bowed down before him.

This Christmas season I hope you will take a moment to consider the Three Kings.  The Wise Men who came to Herod seeking the one who had his very own star in the heavens.  If they would come and worship Jesus Christ as King of Kings and Lord of Lords perhaps we should pause and give thought to his claim of being “the ONLY way to the Father” in Heaven.

Merry Christmas to ALL of YOU and may each and every one of you have a Blessed New Year.

Do You Have A Right To Die?

The world is officially losing its mind.  At least we are here in the United States of America (and probably most other Western cultures as well).

California became the fifth State this week to pass a Right To Die law.  For some reason there are those that seem rather gleeful about this.  This law supposedly gives those that are terminally ill the choice to end their own lives through doctor supplied drugs.

What it does, in reality, is cheapens life.  Forty-three years ago there were those here in the U.S.A. that decried the legalization of abortion predicting that it would lead to new forms of legalized, state sponsored deaths.  And here we have their predictions coming true.

Rush Limbaugh made this very case in his1992 book The Way Things Ought To Be.  Rush writes:

“But I am also pro-life because I am a human being who feels a sense of duty to civilization.  I think it is incumbent upon us all to be concerned about the values we transfer to succeeding generations.  When we take actions that cheapen life, we are contributing to the overall decline in society’s moral values.”

(Limbaugh, Rush, “The Way Things Ought To Be“,  New York, Pocket Books, 1992, ISBN: 0-671-75145-X, pg. 50)

Rush goes on to write:

 “It’s not just abortion that is eroding our respect for human life.  There’s also death at the other end of the spectrum.  Look at the right-to-die movement.  They’re not calling for a right to die, they’re mostly calling for a right to kill.”

(Limbaugh, Rush, “The Way Things Ought To Be“, New York, Pocket Books, 1992, ISBN: 0-671-75145-X, pg. 59)

At the time Rush wrote those words, Dr. Jack Kevorkian was practicing his physician assisted suicides in Michigan.  Rush addresses his work in the chapter of his book I have referenced.  Dr. Kevorkian actually was convicted in 1999 of Second Degree Homicide and served 8 years in prison for that conviction.

It is amazing that just 16 short years ago, States were prosecuting and convicting those engaged in this type of behavior and yet today they are signing that very behavior into law.  How quickly a society can change.

These laws presume to offer you a right (definition #19).  A right to die.  My first question would be: Why in the world would you want such a right?  I have never wanted a right to die.  I want a right to live.  And to live free with the pursuit of happiness.  To be all that God has made me to be.  It used to be that we made SciFi movies about people who were terminally ill and how they would freeze themselves or have their bodies put into some type of stasis so that years into the future when medicine had advanced they could be revived and cured.  Today we simply tell them they have the right to take some life ending drugs.

But my second question is: Where in the world did this right come from?  I’ve talked about rights on this Blog in the past (see my posts on: Where Do YOUR Rights Come From? as well as: Chasing After Rights).  Rights come from somewhere.  That is they are granted by some entity.  The founding fathers of this country believed there were certain inalienable rights that were granted by God.  And among those were Life.  I don’t think that God, who has granted each and every human an inalienable right to life,  has suddenly granted everyone a right to die.  So where did this right come from, if not from God?

And the only possible answer is it came from society.  It came from us.  And if society is in the business of granting rights, we have gone down a very slippery slope indeed.  Why do those in physical pain and suffering get to be granted a special right and those in emotional pain and suffering do not?  I’m going to cry foul here and tell you all about my anguish over the financial disparity between myself and Bill Gates.  I demand the right of financial equality.  It is germane to my sanity and good health.  But there is no such right.  Because God never granted it, and society could never achieve it even if it wanted to grant it.

The people that “granted” this (so-called) right never had the authority to grant such a right to begin with.  They are playing god and are only feeding their own warped egotistical existence.

My biggest problem with the (so-called) Right To Die is the same thing Rush Limbaugh identified 23 years ago.  It cheapens life.  And this is because I actually do have a Theology (something most of the world lacks).

If you are a Creationist, then you have to believe that life was created.  Depending on your particular theology, you might even go so far as to say that life is a gift from God.

My particular religion teaches that God intended for life to be abundant and joyful.  However because sin entered into the world it brought death and destruction.  Death as a consequence of sin, is the very antithesis of life.  The former is a gift, the latter is a curse.

Because of my Theology, I actually cringe whenever I encounter any type of mercy killing or humane killing.  Even with animals or pets.  My problem is that even putting an animal out of its suffering (as if that animal doesn’t want to live) is a hardening of our hearts.  It is a practice that makes it easier for us to then see our way to extending the same practice to our fellow humans.

This is not going to sit well with most of you (actually the vast majority of the world) – but the pain and suffering of death actually AMPLIFIES the great sacrifice that Jesus Christ made upon the Cross.  It is because I abhor death with such great disdain that I appreciate the Cross all the more.  It is because I understand the great sin curse of death that I come to understand Grace all the more.  It is in the pain and suffering that we learn just how much as been overcome.

“Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan!
Oh, the grace that brought it down to man!
Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary!”

Paul of Tarsus understood this when he wrote:

“54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.  55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?  56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.” (1 Corinthians 15″54-56)

Paul understood the sting of death.  And Paul understood the great price that had been paid.  He understood death was the consequence of sin and that Jesus Christ had defeated it once and for all and had walked out of the grave victorious in Life!

So do you have a right to die?  I sincerely hope not.  I hope you have a hope to live!  And I trust that hope is found in the one who was victorious over the grave.  My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Which Side of The Cross Are You On?

When I started this blog I thought that I would treat issues from the Philosophies, Sciences, PoliticsLife, and Religion equally.  All of them are interesting to me and all of them are equally important in defining who we are as a person, as a nation, and as people of this world.

As it turns out though, I have gravitated more towards religion than any of the other studies.  There are a few reasons for this, not the least of which is you, the people I perceive that actually take the time to read my musings.  When I look at the stats for this blog, the readership is heavily slanted towards foreign visits.  United States of America visits do not even comprise half of the readership here.  At least according to the WEB statistics.

And while I find politics immensely interesting, I am only exposed to a couple of political factions in the world.  Those here in the U.S. and those of the Philippines.  Perhaps to some small extent those of Great Britain, but only because of the close history shared between them and the U.S. and definitely not from an understanding of the political culture in the country on a day-to-day basis.

I am not sure I could adequately represent U.S. politics in such a way as to gain interest or engagement from such a diverse international readership as the stats of this blog indicate.

We do all share a common ground however.  And that is Religion.  And it is only natural that I would weight my discussions towards religion.  Because our religion is what will set our biases and our beliefs towards our purpose, as humans here on this planet, and how we establish a moral and ethical code of conduct, both to ourselves, our God (if we believe in one), and to each other.  We ALL have a religion.  Even if you are atheist, it is still your religion.  Atheism influences your set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe.  All the religions of the world influence people in their understanding of life, their purpose, and their obligations to themselves and one another.  Agnostics practice a religion, as do people of great faith.  We all are bound to one religion or another whether we recognize it or not.

One religion however has a seminal event that had a great impact on the entire world and stood the test of time and spanned the ages and continues to guide the course of human events even today.

That religion is Christianity and the event is the Cross.  We’ve marked time by it.  We’ve defined faiths by it.  We’ve ostensibly fought wars because of it.  And we’ve tortured and created martyrs over it.  It is a symbolism that is recognized the world over and brings a controversy and impact with it wherever it goes like no other event in history.

What is amazing to me is that those who would stamp out the controversy of the Cross are not amazed by the impact it has made the world over.  How is it that one man, the person of Jesus Christ, and one death upon the Cross has brought us to the point we are at in the world today?  How is it that the more the world tries to erase its very existence from human history, the more those that cling to it strengthen their grip?  How is it that a seemingly insignificant event, that of a man being executed upon a Cross could make such an impact upon the entire world?

There have been many executions throughout human history.  Many of them famous ones.  I could surely name some that the vast majority of people the world over would be familiar with.  But none of them would compare to one event, some two thousand years ago, that has defined the course of human history.  How is that?  And how are people not amazed and in wonderment of that?  How is it the very executioners of Jesus Christ themselves thought his claim of being the Son of God must be true (Matthew 27:54)?  How is it this one event has reverberated through the annuals of time unless Jesus Christ were true to his claim and he really is the Son of the Most High God?

But the point I want to get to today is that there were at least three crosses upon that hill (that we are told about).  There was a cross to the left and a cross to the right of Jesus (Mathew 27:38).  Three individuals were crucified that day.  And history records all three.  The other two are known as malefactors or thieves.  Today, in most western cultures, and quite a few eastern cultures as well, we would hardly execute someone for the crime of stealing.  Here in the U.S.A. it is not uncommon for thieves to receive a monetary fine and a few years in jail (Source: FindLaw.com and Laws.com).  Certainly a far cry from execution, let alone execution upon a Cross.

The interesting thing to me is that both of the individuals are identified as thieves.  They were both guilty of the exact same crime.  Kind of like you and me.  We are all guilty of violating God’s law (Romans 3:23).  We have all stolen from God the glory that is rightfully His.  We have all stolen the sovereignty that He and He alone deserves.  We have all stolen the allegiance that the creation owes the creator from an Almighty God.  And like the two thieves that hung on their cross on either side of Jesus Christ, we hang in the balance on one side of the Cross or the other.

Each of the two thieves had a different mindset towards Jesus Christ as he hung on the Cross (Luke 23:39-43).  One of them feared God.  One did not.  One of them was responded to.  One was not.  One of them recognized that they were both in a common conviction (justly) of their sins while Jesus Christ was not.  The other simply mocked and ridiculed him.

There are two sides of the Cross.  And the dividing line is the outstretched arms of Jesus Christ.  There is no middle ground.  Jesus Christ himself, and He alone occupies the middle ground.  And we are all (every man, woman, child, every human being that ever has, ever will, and who today exists upon the face of this earth) on one side of that Cross or the other.

My question is: Which side of the Cross are YOU on?  I’m on the side of the thief who begged that Jesus Christ, Lord, would remember me in the Heavenly Kingdom (Luke 23:42).  I pray that you would come to stand on the same side as well.

What Are You Going To Hell For?

Normally a good apologetics case for the truth of the Bible would be built upon a logical foundation.  One might start with the question “Is there a God?” and build from there.  Given the premise that there is a God, one might ask the question “Which god is the God?” or they might ask “Who is God?”  Once a particular god has been settled upon one might ask the questions “What is the personality of God?” or “What is the nature of God?“.  We might progress to the point of asking the question “Do I owe anything to God?” or “Does God expect anything from me?”  And finally we might ask the question “Are there any consequences to not meeting God’s expectations?

I haven’t quite built that case over the past couple of years but I need to jump to the end game here.  Hopefully you will see why in a minute.  I would like to consider the question “Are there any consequences to not meeting God’s expectations?” and allow me to express my belief that there are.

The other day a group of us were sitting around discussing this story about an 18 year old woman who wants to marry her biological father (this story garnered overseas attention here).  This prompted one of the members of the group to make the, rather emphatic, statement “Don’t they know they will go to Hell for that!?!

This is always an interesting statement to me because people (all of us here on this earth) tend to establish different levels of criteria for what will get us into Hell and what won’t.  I would like to say a whole lot more about Hell later on.  I believe it is a place.  A very real place.  But for the sake of time in this particular post, lets just agree that Hell (whatever your definition of Hell is – you will note that I have intentionally not provided any links to a definition or description of Hell, this is because I wish to revisit this topic in the future) is the consequence to not meeting God’s expectation.  So if we may agree, for the time being, that Hell is the consequence to not meeting God’s expectations, and it is obvious that we all establish different levels of criteria for what will cause us to end up in Hell, then the obvious question that arises is do we really understand what God’s expectations are?

In the particular case of the referenced story, some of the group either held a preconceived belief, or else had decided that their own threshold level for going to Hell was incest (this definition is a little broad.  I’m fairly certain the level of impact meant by the statement was sexual intercourse between immediate biological family members).  The implication of the statement is “Hey!  If you engage in this activity you ARE GOING TO HELL!!!” as opposed to some lesser (or perceived to be less offensive) activity.

If we follow this logic we are left to conclude that if one engages in incest, they are destined to go to Hell.  But is that really the case?  I don’t care what your Life foundations are, if you are an Evolutionist or a Creationist, we are all faced with the fact that at some point in the distant past of human existence, we all gained our bloodlines from a single set of parents.  Actually, if you are a Christian, you should believe this happened twice in human history because you should believe that the great flood wiped out all humans except for Noah and his immediate family.  And from both the initial creation, and the flood, all human existence grew from a very limited set of parents.  Hence, incest, on a fairly large scale.

The question then becomes, if incest is the criteria for failing to meet God’s expectations and thus ending up in Hell, what about all of those people in the beginning?  It would be a very cruel God to establish one set of rules for one person and a completely different set for another person.  So what are we to believe here?  Did incest used to be OK and pass God’s “stay out of Hell” test and now incest is not OK and actually fails God’s “stay out of Hell” test?  And is that the only criteria?  Because we, as human’s, want to believe that incest will send us to Hell, but a small lie, while not the right thing to do, is not quite enough to send us to Hell.

Now please don’t get me wrong here.  I am definitely not advocating, nor making a case for incest.  It was only the topic of conversation.  I could use any heinous sin such as murder to make the case.  The fact is, there is a line drawn in the sand with the belief being that when that line is crossed, you have failed God’s expectations and thus are destined to face the consequences of Hell.

I could make the same arguments about any SIN you want to put before the group for conversation.  There are examples of those that have committed great sin and yet God himself has brought to light their redemption.  Moses committed murder.  He killed a man in a fit of anger and rage.  And yet God himself buried Moses when he died, and when Jesus stood on the mount of transfiguration the disciples looked and recognized him (Matthew 17:1-4).  So here we have a murderer, and Jesus is standing with him on the mount.  That is quite a paradox.

Rather than focus on what we can, or cannot do to avoid Hell, it might be better to focus on exactly what God’s expectations are with-respect-to our response to him and try and determine if there is a level of expectation that avoids Hell.

One thing I can absolutely guarantee you of is that we all have met the threshold of SIN to deserve Hell (Romans 3:22-24).  No, I’ve never engaged in incest nor physically murdered anyone, but even that small lie, that moment of ill will toward another, those times when I’ve rebelled against God, those are more than enough to seal my place in Hell.  And you and I are in the exact same boat.  We are ALL headed for Hell from the day we are born.

So what then is the answer?  It is actually found in Romans 3:22, the beginning of the point where Paul tells us we’ve all sinned and are deserving of Hell.  The answer to the righteousness of God (meeting his expectations) is through Jesus Christ and is upon those that believe.

Jesus Christ himself told Nicodemus that those who believed in him would not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

It is what we do with the person of Jesus Christ that determines whether or not we meet God’s expectations and avoid Hell.  Not who we lie to or whom we lie with.  We can live our lives by all the guidelines we can possibly establish, but if we miss the person of Jesus Christ, that he is the Son of God, God in the Flesh, and that he died on the Cross paying the penalty for our sins, that he and he alone is our answer to meeting the expectations of God and thus avoiding Hell, that our belief and our faith must be in and through him, then we have missed the mark.

So what are you going to Hell for?  Because if you feel safe having never committed murder or engaged in incest, you’ve missed the mark.  The one thing in life that will determine whether or not you meet God’s expectations and avoid Hell, is what you do with the person of Jesus Christ.



Whose Justice Is It Anyway?

I know a lot of Old Testament Christians.  You know what I am referring to when I say an Old Testament Christian, right?  An Old Testament Christian is one who doesn’t know how to rightly balance The Law and Grace.  The two concepts have never been rightly defined and rightly applied within their own lives.  An Old Testament Christian is one who declares “Kill them all and let God sort them out!” at the most extreme, and those that cry “Good!  I hope they suffer!” at the least extreme.  And to what end?  Do they think their own perceived injuries will be vindicated by the death or suffering of the unrighteous?  Of course they won’t.  If they are looking for justice here on Earth, they are looking in the wrong place.

A lot of these Old Testament Christians will point out that God is a Just and Holy God and that he cannot stand the wicked to be in his presence.  They are quick to point to passages like Psalm 58:9-11 but then do not believe that Romans 3:9-11 somehow refers to them.  And if there are none righteous (and the passage says “no, not one“) then who is there to rejoice at the vengeance of the wicked?

And it is not just Christians that fall into the trap of proclaiming their justice to be the definitive balance between right and wrong.  Here in Baltimore, Maryland this week there were protests over the Freddie Gray incident similar to others held around the United States of America the last several months.  A common rallying theme heard at such protests is “What do we want?  Justice!  When do we want it?  Now!” and all the while the vast, vast majority of those that pick up that cry have never received injury from those they seek vengeance from, nor will they ever receive injury within their lifetimes.  And yet they still demand justice.

Everyone wants Justice.  The problem is, everyone wants their justice (or justice as they perceive it).  When it comes to justice for you or for me or for anyone else, only they are able to judge rightly.  Only they have the right sensibilities to correctly apply justice and to extract the exact amount of payment necessary for the crime.  We all stand around and judge one another seeking justice for those perceived injuries we feel we have received in our lives.

I have had the sheer joy and pleasure of hearing Dr. Ravi Zacharias speak on several occasions.  One of the most profound things I have ever heard him proclaim (and there have been many) is “If there is no God it makes a mockery of justice“.  And it is true.  Where is the justice for those that died in the Nepal Earthquake?  Where is the justice for those wrongfully persecuted and imprisoned?  Where is the justice for those that are born into impoverished and violent conditions?  Any Atheist who holds to a model of justice in this world is a fool.  Their own model should tell them that the chaos within the system will never allow it to be achieved.  And if it were, Whose Justice Would It Be Anyways?  Yours?  Mine?  Or theirs?  I can certainly assure you it will never be “Ours”.

Allow me to illustrate the point this way.  Here in the United States we have an idiom (a saying) that goes “You can’t fight City Hall“.  It is a way of saying that you are going to receive an injustice whether you want it or not and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.  I had an Atheist (self acknowledged) boss once tell me (in almost the exact same breath) that (a) I couldn’t fight city hall.  And (b) that he was the fairest boss in the entire company.  And he didn’t even realize the irony of what he was saying when he said it.  The fact is, he was saying that any justice other than his did not matter and since he was the most just (fair) it didn’t matter that you couldn’t fight it because it was totally righteous to begin with.  Because that is exactly what those two sentences put together mean.  He also didn’t realize that just the mere statement of his own self acknowledgement of being the “most fair“, makes him not fair.

No, there is no Justice here in this life.  Oh, there are pockets of Justice here and there.  There are times when things seem right and just.  But there are far more times when we want to cry out for justice and it seems fleeting or escapes us.

What then should our response be here in this life?  My Old Testament friends would point out that we should be like God (at least that is what they mean to say).  But I would point out that we are to be like Jesus Christ.  One might argue that Jesus Christ IS God, and you will get no argument from me on that point.  But Jesus Christ is the expression of God in the form of man (see Philippians 2:7-9) and is the example on how we are to be.  There are some traits of God we will never possess, nor should we, for he alone is God.  But we are to be like Jesus Christ.

And what was Jesus Christ like?  Well consider the time when he was in the Temple teaching (pretty much minding his own business) found in John 8:2-11.  When a woman caught in the very act of adultery (stop and think of the sheer embarrassment of that for a moment) was brought before Jesus Christ, what was his response?  It is found in verse 11, where he says “Neither do I condemn thee:“.  If the God of Heaven and Earth stands before a woman caught in the very act of adultery (which is a violation of the law) and says to her that he does not condemn her, then who are we to seek our irrelevant justice here on Earth?  Please note the last part of Jesus’ sentence to the woman, “go, and sin no more“.  He said “sin no more“.  Jesus Christ recognized that she had sinned.  He realized that she was in the wrong.  And yet there was no condemnation.

That is Grace.  That is God’s Grace.  And that is Grace as only God can deliver it.

Perhaps the world would be a slightly better place if we were to all step back and consider our injustices, and before we seek justice or vengeance ask ourselves the question: Whose Justice Is It Anyway?