Don’t Be a Pharisee

And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:9-13 ESV

For Father’s Day my son Daniel bought me a pair of on ear hearing protection that also has Bluetooth, so I can listen to my music on my phone as I mow or work with power tools and save what is left of my hearing. I indulged in way too much loud music in my youth.

I have quite a collection of music on my phone, rock, country and contemporary Christian music. I have been listening to my Christian playlist which mostly consists of older Christian music with some of the more recent music added. One artist that I love is no longer played by Christian radio stations. As a result, people are missing out of some of the best and most Biblical Christian songs in recent history. The artist I refer to is Ray Boltz who in 2008 came out as a gay man. He had separated from his wife of 33 years in 2005.

Now it is not my purpose to say homosexuality is not a sin, God’s Word clearly says it is. It is called a sin in both the Old and New testaments. But a lot of Christians tend to put homosexual sin as some how worse that any other sin. And let’s get this straight being a homosexual is not a sin, but homosexual sex is. That may be too fine a distinction for many, unless we want to classify all temptation as sin.

For most of us hiding our sins from others is relatively easy. We put on a smile and on Sundays we go to church and no one is the wiser. But we all sin. For the gay couple it is not easy to hide, I am reminded living in East Texas in the 70’s. I had long hair and all too often I felt the discrimination that was rampant back then. Just another long-haired hippy. Didn’t matter what I really was like they had judged me. I have a black friend who also traveled through East Texas back then and he was stopped for driving while black. Now I could cut my hair and suddenly I was okay, but my black friend didn’t have that option.

Are we as Christians doing the same to gay people? Judging them by appearance rather than what is in their hearts. When you stand out you are easy to judge. Most of us can silently go through life keeping our sins hidden. But God calls us to love each other. How can we show love if we are too busy judging?

Jesus used tax collectors and a pharisee who was persecuting the church to deliver His message. Jesus ate with prostitutes and sinners. In Mark we are told “and the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:16-17 ESV) I don’t know what God has in store for Ray

We Christians tend to put or pastors and entertainers to a very high standard almost to the point of expecting them to not sin. Then when they do, we are quick to cast them out. But they are subject to the same sinful flesh as we are. Unless you believe as some do that a Christian no longer is capable of sin and if you still sin then you are not saved, and yes, I have encountered people that believe that, then what Ray Boltz and I write are of no account to you. But if you are like Paul was and are still in your sins even as the Holy Spirit works to make us into what God wants us to be then we need to look at how we treat those in the spotlight when they fall short of the goal. Today as I was doing yard work Third Day’s song Wire played on my headphones and I was reminded that they too feel the pressure to be perfect. Here are partial lyrics, “Turn on the spotlight strike up the band everyone’s looking my way. You came to see the excitement first hand hear all that I’ve got to say and oh it makes me wonder what if I slip will they catch me or watch me fall”.

I don’t know what God has in store for Ray Boltz. Maybe God wants him to minister to the gay community. Maybe God has other plans for him. What I do know after listening to all the music he wrote is that Ray Boltz is a brother in Christ. I still listen to his music and I find God and Christ in his lyrics.

When they fall, do we catch them, or do we let them fall and turn our backs?

Have a blessed day,

David

PS: Here are some of my favorite Ray Boltz songs in no particular order. “Thank You’, “There Stood a Lamb”, “Still Her Little Child”, “AT the Foot of the Cross”, “The Anchor Holds”, and “Where I Met Jesus”. If you don’t want to buy the songs at least look up the lyrics and let me know what you think.

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Who Created everything?

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. (Genesis 1:1-2 ESV)

Too many Christians like to go to church on Sunday and then go home. We let our pastors do the preaching and evangelizing. But you don’t need a theological degree to share God’s Word. In fact, we are told it is our duty to spread the Good News to all the world. The past Monday a plumber let me see something I had missed.

We had a new kitchen faucet installed. My back will let me know if I try to wriggle under a kitchen sink, so I let the professionals do that type of work. Anyways, he had finished the work and I was writing out the check he noticed the fish logo on the check and asked if I was Christian. I responded yes, and he asked me who created the world. My answer was God and Jesus. To which he responded correct and that most people say God.

Now that answer isn’t incorrect as we see in the Genesis account. But it is incomplete as we can see when we turn to the New Testament. When I added Jesus to my answer, I was thinking of John chapter 1:1-3, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. John tells us that It was the Son personality of the Triune God who created the World and everything else.

What John the plumber brought to my attention is that the Gospel of John is not the only place in the New Testament that we are told that Jesus created everything. We are told again in Hebrews that Jesus created. Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but bin these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. (Hebrews 1:1-3) The writer of Hebrews also tells us that Jesus not only created the world but upholds the universe.

The Paul tells us in Colossians and Ephesians that Jesus created the world.

Colossians 1:15-17, He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Ephesians 3:9 reads in the ESV translation “and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things,” However if we look at the King James translation it reads, “And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:

Just a quick aside here. As those who have read my posts know, it is rare that I use multiple translations in a single post. The phrase “things by Jesus Christ” was possibly added in a late manuscript in order to harmonize this verse in Ephesians with what Paul wrote in Colossians and what was written in John’s Gospel and Hebrews. Our plumber used the KJV when he showed me these verses and told me to use the KJV when looking them up. As you can see the modern translations and the KJV do not differ in any significate way. What the modern translators have that the King James translators is more and older manuscripts to use. As to which is the better translation, well that is for a future post.

Back to the subject of this post. The New Testament makes it clear that is was through the Son that God created the universe and all that is in it. Why is this important? I think that it furthers ties Jesus to us. He created the universe and then H stepped into the world with us in order to give each of us the gift of salvation. Jesus was there in the beginning, He is here in the here and now and He will be there in the end of days.

Two other takeaways from what we have learned today. First, if God’s Word tells us something it is important but if He tells us the same thing multiple times, we need to realize it is very important.

Second, God told us through Moses, almost 4,000 years ago, that the universe had a beginning. Science finally caught up with God on May 20, 1964 when radio astronomers Robert Wilson and Arno Penzias discovered the cosmic microwave background radiation which was the first scientific proof that the universe had a beginning. Some scientists have been desperately trying to find a way around this discovery. Because if the universe had a beginning then it had to have a cause and they are not comfortable with who that cause was.

Have a blessed day,

David

All Bible verses are from the English Standard Version except where noted.

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Wonders of Child Birth

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:13-14 ESV

One week ago our fourth grandchild was born, Aaron Micah, he is our second grandson. As with the birth of our children and other grandchildren I am amazed with the birth process and see God’s hand in it. Now I know that those who hold a naturalist world view will say that it is just a process developed over millions of years unguided by any higher power than natural selection.

But when I think about how one cell with DNA from the mother nad father then starts to divide over and over with cells becoming specialized so that every organ in the body is formed and formed in the right place I am amazed. How that one cell becomes the millions of cells that make up a baby and for the most part rarely goes wrong. I can barely type a complete sentence without an error. Even Richard Dawkins says “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” {Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, 1996, p. 1}

I write this sitting on my deck enjoying the cool weather, all too rare in Texas this time of year. But from my chair I get to observe countless birds and especially love watching hummingbirds as they dart here and there and I can’t help seeing God’s handiwork. It boggles my mind that all I see in this world from the butterfly to baby Aaron is just the result of random mutation and chance. I guess I just don’t have enough faith to believe that.

Have a blessed day,

David

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Love

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:25-29 ESV

There is so much hate in the world today that it is stifling. In the United States after the last presidential election people have been spewing out hatred for the president and anyone who voted for him or supports him. In fact, if you voice anything near a conservative opining you risk being inundated with hate filled responses. It’s enough to make one want to withdraw from social media and all social discourse.

What’s a Christian supposed to do? Well, withdrawing is not an option. And as hard as it is we are commanded to do three things, spread the Good News, love God and love our neighbors. Loving God, not all that hard to do but the other two? To quote Shakespeare, “there’s the rub.” It is easy to love God because he loved us first. Easy to love our parents, spouses, kids and friends. That neighbor thing, that can get hard. Sometimes those neighbors can be downright nasty. And Jesus didn’t just include the people living on your block. No Jesus essentially tells us everyone is our neighbor.

Even those who flame us on social media. Those who berate us in public because of our religion, political beliefs or our position on any number of issues. Yep, we are supposed to love them too. But God that’s hard to do. Come on Jesus if you just knew how bad they treat me you would change you mind. And as soon as those words cross your consciousness you feel ashamed. It really doesn’t matter how bad someone treat me, Jesus was treated so much worse.

When we approach someone with love it starts to change them. We may not see the change, but love will overcome hate. It bothers me when I see Christians spewing hatred of others. We must set an example for others to follow. I know that I can always do better than I have in the past. Unfortunately, God is not finished with me. I am a major reclamation project.

Always remember that Love is the greatest commandment. Love God, love each other and love your neighbor wherever you find them.

Have a Blessed day,

David

PS: This is my first post in over a year. One of the downfalls of retirement for me is a lack of structure. Unfortunately, this affected my writing. Also, I think I set too big a task for me in the past. Trying to write 5 or more posts a week burned me out. I hope to keep a more balanced output. Additionally, Gail and I traveled a bit and we welcomed a new grand daughter 18 months ago. A very big benefit of retirement is more time to spend with our now 3 grandkids and in October a forth. God has blessed my family.

David

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Merry Christmas

For God So Loved the World “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 ESV)

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Luke 2:1-20 ESV)

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I Am Wonderfully Made

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. (Psalm 139:13-14 ESV)

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Christmas seems like a great time to talk about the birth of a child. So for the next few days that is what I hope to do. Today though I am not going to write about the child you expect. No, today I go closer to home. The past November on the 26th at 9:31 PM we welcomed a new addition to our family, a new granddaughter Clara Mae. Clara was 8 pounds and 1 ounce and 20 inches long. No matter how many times I see a newborn I cannot help but think of the miracle that is the birth of a baby. How is it that something so complex as a human being can start out as a microscopic cell and grow into this perfect replica of their parents?

Now the naturalist leaning will tell us that it is just a matter of the cell splitting and then using the information contained in the DNA to over the course of about nine months form a baby. All very natural and no need to bring in any supernatural elements thank you very much.

Yet when we look at how the fertilized egg “knows” what to do and in what order to create this new human we have to look at the DNA. DNA is the language of the cell. Every creature that has ever lived on this earth has DNA and uses it to replicate and repair itself. The DNA alphabet consists of four letters and every creature including us uses these four letters to reproduce. Think about that for a moment.

The English alphabet has 26 letters. Other alphabets have more or fewer letters of characters but none have only four. Yet somehow the four letters in our DNA are able to carry all the information needed to make another human.

I am typing this on Microsoft Word. Word allows me to change to font and its size. I can alter the spacing and numerous other aspects of my document with a few clicks of the mouse. I just type and words appear on my screen. Now I am not a programmer and have no idea how complex the code that created Word is but I am betting it is pretty complex. Yet the coding for word is child’s play next to the coding that was needed to create me.

Now no one I know thinks that somehow Word was created without the need for intelligence. Yet many think that the code to create each of us somehow just came about through a random and undirected process. That just doesn’t seem very likely to me.

Over three thousand years David wrote a praise to God. In it he acknowledges that God formed him in his mother’s womb. David realized that something as remarkable as humans needed something more than just chance. We need a creator. Someone who guides us from the moment of conception to the moment we draw our final breath.

When I hold my new granddaughter Clara I am once again reminded of the miracle of birth. It is another miracle of birth that we celebrate every December 25th when God Himself came down to live amongst us.

Have a blessed day,

David

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I Am

Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. (Exodus 3:13-15 ESV)

A while ago I was out running errands when Tony Evans came on the radio. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Dr. Evans, he is the Senior Pastor to the over 9,500 member Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas, and the first African American to earn a doctorate in Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary where he taught evangelism, homiletics and black church studies at DTS, and serves on its Board of Incorporate Members. He is a speaker, teacher and writer and in my opinion one of the best speakers around. His enthusiasm for the Word is contagious and his speaking style reminds me of some of the old time Baptist pastors. He has a way of making difficult scripture accessible to all.

Doctor Evans short radio piece was on Exodus 3 verses 13 to 14. As you can see from reading the verses we have Moses having doubts if the Hebrews will believe he has been sent from God. So, Moses asks God if the ask who should he say has sent him. God answers Moses saying ““I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations”

Doctor Evans makes the observation that God by using “I AM WHO I AM” is telling Moses and us that He is self-existent, that is that God is not contingent on anything else for his existence. Let’s take a look at what The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised Volume 2, Page 507 has to say about how God identifies Himself, God declares that His name is ʾehyeh ʾašer ʾehyeh. The verb ʾehyeh is imperfect qal and is obviously linked to the tetragrammaton, as vv 14f make plain. Of the two possible senses for it, “I am who/what I am” and “I will be who/what I will be,” the latter is preferable but not because the idea of God as a self-existent, unique, transcendent being is “foreign to Hebrew thought,” as has often been said (cf. Isa. 40–55, which describe Yahweh in exalted language that implies all those things). Rather, it is preferable because the verb hāyâ has a more dynamic sense of being—not pure existence, but becoming, happening, being present—and because the historical and theological context of these early chapters of Exodus shows that God is revealing to Moses, and subsequently to the whole people, not the inner nature of His being, but His active, redemptive intentions on their behalf. He “will be” to them “what” His deeds will show Him “to be.”

 

To the Hebrew people God was not a being that came into existence but a being that had always existed and it is this eternal existence that concerns me today. How often have you heard the question “who made God?” Children will sometimes ask this question but all too often unbelievers will also ask this question thinking they have somehow asked the question that puts to rest the existence of God. But they have missed a very important point when we look at how the universe came to be.

We know today that the universe had a beginning. Every experiment conducted over the last fifty plus years points to the fact that our universe is not eternal and had a definite birth about 14 or so billion years ago. Let us take a quick look at causality. Something can be uncaused, it can be caused by something else or it can be self-caused. We can rule out the last example because it is a logical impossibility. In order to be self-caused that thing would have to exist before it existed. This is clearly impossible. We are then left with two means of causality, something can be either uncaused of caused to come into existence by something else. Our own experiences are very familiar with things being caused by something else. Babies are caused by their parents. Buildings are caused by teams of workers. Canyons are caused by erosion and mountains by plate tectonics. Everywhere we look one thing is caused by another thing. Something had to exist in order to cause something else to come into existence.

What about the universe? What caused the universe to come into existence? Furthermore, why is the universe even here? If there was a time when something did not exist then why does it exist today? It is the fact that the universe had a beginning that has scientists and philosophers jumping through hoops since the 1960 trying to come up with a reason that does not involve God.

They have come up with all manner of multiverses or special quantum fluxes in order to show how the universe came into existence. Do you spot the flaw in these arguments? They do not tell us how everything began. The multiverse just passes the problem to another level. You are just adding universes one before the other, this begs the question of what caused the universe. The multiverse is an example of an infinite regress as a joke it is called “Turtles all the way down” This came about when people argued for a flat earth. When asked what held up the earth the answer was a large turtle. So what was that turtle standing on, another turtle. The line of reasoning leads to the answer, there are turtles all the way down. Down to what is left unanswered.

The quantum flux needs space time to happen but unless we are to dismiss Einstein we have nothing for the quantum flux to flux in. Einstein’s theories wrap space time with the universe. They all happened together. Where does this leave us? There must be a first cause. For anything physical to exist there has to be a first cause and this first cause has to be uncaused. That is it always has to have existed and always will exist, eternal.

What would this first cause look like? As I said before it has to be eternal and uncaused. The universe can give us other clues. Our universe has rational laws that govern it so the first cause has to be rational. The universe is ordered so the first cause should also be orderly. The universe was created so the first cause has to be creative. The universe exists where it could not exist this can lead us to think the first cause is loving. To create something as large and powerful as the universe out of nothing means the first cause is all powerful. The first cause would have to have infinite intelligence and knowledge to create something as our universe that eventually is home to an intelligent species.

The first cause should be loving, rational, all powerful, eternal, all knowing and intelligent. This sounds an awful like the God described in the Bible. This is something that the Hebrew people knew over four thousand years ago. It is something that believers know today. Unbelievers have to jump through a lot of hoops in order to get around God. But even with all their machinations they still have not answered to question, where did everything come from.

What I have written today is a long drawn out version of the Kalam Cosmological argument. This line of reasoning is as follows, whatever begins to exist has a cause; the universe began to exist; therefore: the universe has a cause. A year or so back one of my atheist readers commented that he had refuted the Kalam argument. I looked at his refutation and what I found was a version of the multiverse theory. In his example he postulates that the universe was created similar to how droplets of water are created when waves crash upon the shore. What is missed is where did the ocean that created the wave come from not to mention the shore. These types of arguments may answer how the universe came into being but ignores the question of where everything originally came from or why there is anything at all.

For a summary of the Kalam argument for God look at my post on this blog. Or for an in depth look get William Lane Craig’s The Kalam Cosmological Argument.

Have a blessed day,

David

PS: To my readers, my apologies for not posting in such a long time. As some of you know I retired last year and I have often been asked what the most difficult thing about retirement is. I answer for me it is the lack of structure. I got my first real job as a painter’s helper when I was 14.Before that I mowed neighbor’s lawns. I have either worked, gone to school or both since then. Last year I found myself without the structure that I had for 50 years. Also, being home I tend to see something that needs doing and just do it which leads to a lot of jumping around. So as I seek to put structure in my daily life and as Gail and I travel the country please bear with me. My goal is to write a post at least once a week and to finish my study of Luke. Thanks for your patience and understanding.

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