Sunday, August 26, 2007

Get, therefore, skill

"As in searching into any experiments in nature, there is an infinite pleasure that accompanies such a study to them that are addicted thereunto; so to him that hath pleasure in the works of God, and is addicted to spy out his kindness in them, there is nothing so pleasant as the discovery of new circumstances of mercy that render his work "glorious and honorable."

Get, therefore, skill in his dealings with thee, and study thy friends carriage to thee. It is the end why he raised thee up, and admitted thee into friendship with him, to show his art of love and friendship to thee; to show, in a word, how well he could love thee."

Thomas Goodwin

I had to read that a number of times to squeeze out the nectar; here's my take on it. His purpose in calling and saving us is that we may understand this God of love and his many ways of caring and loving us. Goodwin's encouragement for me is to look closely at each person and circumstance of life to see God's hand in it. If we look only to His word for inspiration, and don't look with eyes of faith at all that surrounds us, we will miss and take for granted many things. And, I think, in addition, attribute much of God's blessings to happenstance. When we are around strong Christians, we see how God has taught them many ways to show tenderness and understanding, we feel awed by their sensitivity and their loving ways of acting out these deep truths of God.

I'll get personal now; I was at a gathering after the Memorial for Carissa's father. There was a man there who was a Christian, he was much about sharing Jesus, he was bold and unashamed of the gospel. He was on a mission to pray with every unbeliever there. When he had success, he would come and share the victory. At first my wife was impressed with his open conversation to all. I was also impressed, but not with him, but with my wife. As this man was off and about sharing the gospel, Sue was living it. She had volunteered to do the video, also the program for the service. She attended the video at the service, she talked with the bereaved wife, invited her to our house and made future plans to visit. Made herself friendly to other family members she was introduced to. Played catch with the children, all of which were orphaned. So, now who shared the gospel? Who glorified the Lord? It is an easy question for me.

Goodwin exhorts us to study God's friendship to us; so we may learn how to love, not just speak.

"Philosophy seeks truth, Theology finds it, but Religion possesses it. Human things must be known to be loved, but divine things must be loved to be know." Blaise Pascal

While reading the Treasury of David, by Spurgeon, my eyes fell on the following and thought it was said well.....

"The difference between an unconverted and a converted man is not that one has sins, and the other has none; but that the one takes part with his cherished sins against a dreaded God, and the other takes part with a reconciled God against his hated sins....

It is God's love, from the face of Jesus shining into my dark heart, that makes my heart open to him, and delight to be his dwelling place. The eyes of the just Avenger I cannot endure to be in this place of sin; but the eye of the compassionate Physician I shall gladly admit into this place of disease; for he comes that he may heal such sin-sick souls as mine."
William Arnot

Elsewhere William Howels says..

" It is a solemn fact, that there is not an evil principle in the bosom of the devil himself which does not exist in ours, at the present moment, unless we are fully renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit. That these evil principles do not continually develop themselves, in all their hideous deformity, is entirely owing to the restraining and forbearing mercy of God."

Now, as for myself, I think it is a great mercy that God restrains me. I often forget how difficult all my relationships would be if God did not guide and restrain my human nature. Hopefully, with his continued mercy, at my death there will be some good things done for God, but far more in abundance will be the evil He restrained me from doing.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Eternal Punishing

In most of the churches I have attended, they hold to one point of view about the afterlife for unbelievers; that the punishment is eternal and the punishing goes on eternally.
The following article offers another view of life after death and if you have never read this view, I think you will find it interesting.


Is It Really of God?

THE CONCEPT OF ETERNAL PUNISHMENT though considered by many to be orthodox Christian doctrine, must be Challenged and indeed refuted. Some of its destructive implications are:

+ The character of God is maligned.

+ The devil is exalted and Jesus Christ is
made a failure.

+ Numerous plain statements of scripture
are contradicted.

+ Teachings of some of the most respected
church fathers are contradicted.

+ Like a corrupt tree, it brings forth evil

God's Nature Maligned

God's nature is love (1Jn.4:8, 16)…"agape" love which always seeks the best for others and never ceases until this objective is accomplished. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, and never fails (1Cor.13:7,8). God, having perfect foreknowledge in creation, knew that all mankind would follow Adam into sin. Therefore God made provision for man's reconciliation before the foundation of the world (1Ptr.1:19,20). Statisticians tell us that over the past 6,000 years approximately 160 billion people have lived on the earth. The doctrine of "eternal punishment" declares that all who do not believe on Jesus Christ while in their mortal bodies spend eternity in an inescapable, unending hell. If 10% of the earth's people believed on Jesus Christ then the remaining 144 billion must consequently spend eternity being punished. This would mean that God's purpose in creation was eternal punishment for some 144 billion people! Apart from any knowledge of the grace and mercy of God we could hardly say this reflects a God of justice. Having a higher revelation of God's "agape" love, can we now accept this doctrine as being consistent with a God of love?
Yes, our holy and just God does require accountability of man to Himself and does punish man for his sin and rebellion. But, if the punishment is unending then what purpose does it serve? Such behavior by an earthly father would be considered sadism. Is our heavenly Father's love and punishment to be degraded to the level of such an earthly father? No, for though man may fail, God's love never fails. If it did, He would deny Himself.
Exaltation of the Devil
The doctrine of "eternal punishment" makes hell an eternal monument to the devil's works of sin and death. Did Jesus fail at destroying the works of the devil (1Jn.3:8)? Did the first Adam's offense unto condemnation and death for all accomplish "much more" than the last Adam's free gift of grace unto justification for all (Ro.5:15)? Did Jesus tell a lie when He said, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth will draw all men unto me."? Is the last enemy, death, not destroyed? Are those to whom God becomes "All in all" (1Cor.15:28) only those who managed to escape the devil's clutches? Does every knee bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil.2:11) because God is really like Nebechadnezzer (Dan.3), forcing all into submission without respect to the desire of their heart? If "eternal punishment" is true, then all of the above are true and the devil is exalted.
Contradiction of Scripture
The doctrine of "eternal punishment" contradicts the plain statements of scripture. To profess it is to take "away from the words of the book" (Rev.22:19). This requires us to ignore or revise the following scriptures: Regarding all men: Lk. 2:10; 1Tim.4:10; 1Cor.15:22,23; 1Tim.2:3-6; Rom. 5:17,18; Tit.2:11; Jn.12:32,33; 2Ptr.3:9; Rom.11:26,32; Heb.8:11; Psa.22:27,29. Regarding every man: 1Cor.11:3; Jn.1:9; Heb.2:9; Mk.9:49; Isa.45:23; Phil.2:10, 11; 1Cor.15:23. Regarding all families: Gen.12:3; 28:14; Gal.3:8. Regarding all flesh: Jn.17:2; Joel.2:28; Isa.40:5; Psa.65:2. Regarding all things: Eph.1:9-11; Col.1:20; Rev.21:5; Ac.3:21; Rom.11:36; Heb.1:2; Phil.3:21; 1Cor.15:28; Rev.4:11. Regarding the world: Jn.8:12; 2Cor.5:19; Jn.3:16; Jn.1:29; Jn.4:42; Jn.12:47; Jn.17:21; Isa45:22; Jn.16:33. Regarding the whole world: 1Jn.2:2. Regarding the creation: Mk.16:15; Col.1:23; Rom.8:21; Rev.5:13 Psa.145:8,9. If the doctrine of "eternal punishment" is true, then not one of the above scriptures (and there are many more) can be accepted at face value. God's ability to regenerate the spirit of man and to fulfill His own word is limited by the heartbeat of man.
Distortion in Translation
People insist upon the doctrine of " eternal punishment" because the King James Bible (and others influenced by it) associate the word eternal with punishment and destruction. God raised up scholars to give us concordances, lexicons, and both Greek and Hebrew word studies, because no translation is perfectly true to the original manuscripts. The Christian's surest guide to truth is the Holy Spirit who Jesus said will "teach you all things" (Jn.14:26). The King James Bible translated the Greek noun "aion" and its adjectival form "aionios" variously as world, age, eternal, and everlasting. One word should not be translated to have so many separate meanings when there are specific Greek words with these meanings. World means the material earth on which man lives, and is properly translated in "the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world [kosmos] are clearly seen" (Rom.1:20). Age means an indeterminable period of time which has a beginning and an end, and is properly translated in "the mystery which hath been hid from ages [aion] and from generations"(Col.1:16). Eternal means that which is perpetual, with no beginning and no end, as is properly rendered in "His eternal [aidios] power and Godhead" (Rom.1:20). Please note the Greek word "aidios" which actually means eternal. But "aidios" is never found in relation to punishment of unbelievers.
Some would suggest that the Greek form in which the adjective "aionios" is used allows for the translation "eternal". The most basic laws of grammar prohibit this. A word derived from a parent word cannot have a meaning greater than or different from the parent word. The meaning of the adjective form of a word depends upon and corresponds to the meaning of the noun from which it is derived. As an example, a daily (adjective) paper comes every day (noun) not monthly or hourly.
A reasonable objection may well be "why didn't the King James translators translate "aionios" to be age instead of eternal? Or why does the commonly accepted Vines's expository dictionary (V.E.D) insist that "aionos" means eternal? The beloved brethren who have given themselves to these scholarly pursuits are to be honored, but they, like us, are subject to seeing "through a glass, darkly" (1Cor:13:12). V.E.D. for example, states that the gift of tongues ceased after apostolic times and that both the gifts of knowledge and prophecy are unnecessary since the Holy scriptures are sufficient for guidance, instruction and edification. Mr. Vine's viewpoint is typical of the "fundamentalist" school of theology, which for all practical purposes eliminates the need and expectancy of God's people to hear directly from Him. To the many who have come into the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and today comprise the Pentecostal and charismatic segment of the church, V.E.D. is obviously biased. The gifts of the Holy Spirit did not terminate with the early apostle, but are to be just as much in evidence today. The same kind of prejudice is perpetuated with the doctrine of "eternal punishment." Numerous Greek scholars have sought to bring correction. A sampling of some of their works follows:
Young's Analytical concordance to the Bible, by Robert Young, LL.D.; Thomas Nelson Publishers.
Young's Literal translation of the Holy Bible, by Robert Young, LL.D.;Baker House.
Greek English Concordance, by J.B. Smith; Herald Press.
The Emphasized Bible, by J.B. Rotherham;Kregel Publications.
Concordant Literal New Testament, by the Concordant Publishing Concern.
The Word "Aion"
The word"aion" means age or that which pertains to the ages. Ages have beginnings and endings. Their duration's are for indefinite periods of time. There is no time element to eternity and therefore the word is eternal is totally inappropriate translation. God made the aions: "by whom also He made the worlds [aions]" (Heb.1:2). God is called the God of the aions or the "ever-lasting [aionial] God" (Rom.16:26). There was a time before the aions: "according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world [aionios] began" (2Tim.1:9). We live in the present aion: "Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world [aion]" (Matt.13:39). There is an age after this aion: "it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world [aion], neither in the world [aion] to come. (Matt.13:32).
There are aions to look forward to: "that in the ages [aions] to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace" (Eph.2:7). Jesus reigns to the aion of the aion: "But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever [to the aion of the aion]" (Heb.1:8). At the end of this age: "then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father…then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all" (ICor.15:24,28).
During this time of the aions, Christians have aionial life (Jn.3:16) aionial salvation (Heb.5:9) and an aionial inheritance (Heb.9:15). Presently, Christians have been "sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession" (Eph.1:14-15). There will come a day when Christians no longer have just the earnest, but will receive the full inheritance of true eternal life which is when God becomes "all in all" (1Cor.15:28). In the meantime, there will continue aionial judgment (Heb.6:2) aionial condemnation (Mk.3:29), aionial fire (Matt.25:41) and aionial punishment (Matt.24:26).
Church History
There is no documentation that the church councils of the first four centuries embraced the doctrine of "eternal punishment." The church councils at Nice in A.D. 325, at Constantinople in A.D.381, at Ephesus in A.D.431 and at Chalcedon in A.D.451 never embraced this doctrine. In contrast, there is documented evidence that many church leaders and teachers of the first centuries A.D. wrote acclaiming the doctrine of 'universal salvation or "ultimate reconciliation", none of whom were censored. It was not until 553 A.D. that the Roman Catholic Church denounced the teaching of ultimate reconciliation as heresy. This is the same organization which:
---in the 2nd century started calling it elders "priests"
---in the 3rd century instituted sacerdotal mass, claiming the unbloody sacrifice of Jesus
---in 300 A.D. endorsed prayers for the dead
---in 375 A.D. reverenced angels, dead saints, and images
---in 431 A.D. exalted Mary as the "Mother of God"
---in 526 A.D. instituted extreme unction
---in 533 A.D. renounced the doctrine of ultimate reconciliation
A Wrong Spirit Fostered
The doctrine of "eternal punishment" fosters a self-righteous, vindictive spirit in believers. The psalmist, speaking of idols said, "they that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them" (Psa.115:8). If a Christian has an image or mental picture of god that projects Him as One who writes off those who disregard Him, then that believer similarly tends to reject those who disagree with him. Church history is replete with inquisitions and martyrdom's manifesting this image of God. An extreme example is Queen Mary (1516-1558) of England, who won her title "Bloody Mary" by torturing and murdering non Catholics. She justified her actions, proclaiming "as the souls of heretics are to be hereafter eternally burning in hell, there can be nothing more proper than for me to imitate the divine vengeance by burning them on earth." Bloody Mary's image of God lives on today. Condescending, pharisaical attitudes which continually divide the body of Christ, justify themselves because of a perverted image of God. "My little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen"(1Jn.5:21).
Christianity Degraded
The doctrine of "eternal punishment" aligns Christianity with the pagan religions of the world. Pagan religion recruits and rules its members by fear. The common theme of pagan religion is that non-members displease an angry god and will therefore spend eternity being tortured and tormented in the flames of hell. The pagan god rules by threat and intimidation. Preachers who have to use fear of "eternal punishment" to move people to come to the altar, and Christians who need the doctrine of "eternal punishment" to keep them from falling into sin or to motivate them to evangelism and prayer, sadly reveal their lack of true relationship with the God whose love casts out fear because fear has torment (1Jn.4:18). Is it any wonder that Christianity, whose gospel is the "power of God unto salvation" (Rom.1:16), has made so little impact upon the world's population?
The Conscience Says "No"
The Holy Spirit-illumined conscience is the truest witness of the Holy Spirit. Any doctrine born of God will commend itself to the Christian's conscience. Though many say they believe this doctrine to be true, they very seldom, if ever, preach it, and if they do they will say, "I wish it were not really true or "If I could change it, I would." These or similar statements only reveal the voice of their consciences, which do not find an Amen! To the doctrine of "eternal punishment." you, the reader, test this statement: Say out loud: "Every person who has not believed on Jesus Christ while living in this mortal body on this earth deserves to be eternally punished." What is the witness of your conscience?
Knowing the Father
The central issue is do we really know the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? The Pharisees thought they knew God, and so insisted that Jesus keep the law rather than heal on the Sabbath. James and John though they knew the Lord and that he would approve their request to send down fire from heaven and consume those who would not receive His ministry. Each of these men could draw upon the letter of the scripture to support his beliefs. In the same way many good people have relied upon the letter of the word in justifying "eternal punishment." My appeal to you, the reader, is to distinguish between the letter of the word and the spirit of the word. Examine your own heart as to the nature of God's love and judgments. Is your God the god of eternal punishment? For many years I thought He was, until He challenged me to look again. My prayer is that we may be as Job, who declared, "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee." (Job.42:5).
Lee Salisbury, pastor
King Jesus Church, St.Paul, MN.
This pamphlet can be obtained through this email address….. mailto:address…
Kingdom Resources
True Grace Ministries
Sigler Ministries

Saturday, August 04, 2007

" The wise woman builds her house,
but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down." Proverbs 14:1

I remember reading in "The road less travelled" how we are born helpless and without crying and fits we will not be able to communicate. As we mature we leave these methods behind. Or some do. This woman looks back on a life of self induced torment. With her own hands she sought to always have her way and in the end she realizes with her own hands she tore down; and now she sits alone with her two friends, 'wish I had' and 'could have been'.

Death Calling

When I saw this sculpture, and being sixty years old, I didn't relate to the spiritual implications. Trust me at 60 the old malibu isn't running like it used to. As you enter your fifties and sixties, the reality of death enters your ruminations far more.
But the truth is, this picture depicts the struggle of the soul and the relentless pursuit of spiritual death, and is far more relevant. Maybe more in our cultures than many, we will do valiant battle or be overcome. No middle ground in America, the assault is far too aggressive to passively meander the narrow path.
The soul pictured here has allowed herself to wander far too close to darkness and but for a miracle, this soul will be captured and tormented. Resist, but resist before the clutches of evil enfold you.