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Archive for October, 2010

Most people have heard of the suffering of Job. That’s what he’s famous for. Personally, I don’t want any part of that sort of fame. I have experienced a degree of trouble and pain, as is inevitable in this world, but nothing like Job. I’ve heard several sermons on Job, and studied what a few theologians have written about him. Most of what I’ve heard is just a painful echo of the things that Job’s “friends” said to him. Job knew that his friends didn’t intend to add insult to injury, but that’s what they did. He called them “miserable comforters.”

The book of Job is very complex. The first time I read it, it seemed to just go around in circles. Many who read through this book of the Bible seem to miss the message. It seems that we try to shape it to fit our theology, rather than allowing it to shape us. One of the things Job teaches us is that things are not always as they seem.

If someone wants to visit Job, and try to help him in some way, that’s a nice gesture. Don’t start trying to figure out what Job did wrong, to cause those evil things to befall him though. That’s where Job’s friends went wrong, and that’s where most sermons I’ve heard about him go astray. It would most often be sufficient, and more true to life to say, that Satan did all this to him. That’s one of the things the book of Job makes clear.

I’ve at least partially read one book by Oswald Chambers. I don’t remember much about the book, but I want to use a quote by him here, since he has a good reputation among Christians. “Satan uses the problems of this life to slander God’s character; he tries to make us think that all the calamities and miseries and wrongs spring from God.” Satan causes suffering, and then lays the blame on God. That’s the way it is.

If someone wanted to discuss the disagreement between Calvin and Arminius at this point, you’d have to get a lot deeper, which I hope to do in time. I want to stick with the basics right now. If someone were to ask why God didn’t continue to protect Job from Satan; you would get a lot of answers. Most of them are going to have something to do with character building. “This happened so God could build Job’s character,” or to “bring him to repentance.”

Most of the reasons that people give for suffering fall under this category. That’s what we’ve been taught. Those who hold that view, point to the fact that Job repented at the end of the book. I think there’s very little that Job needed to be sorry for, other than he began to think God had turned against him, which wasn’t true. Here are a couple of things within the book of Job that show the character building theory doesn’t always hold true.

1. Job was already mature in character. As a matter of fact, that is what precipitated the chain of events that occurred. Nor did this happen to “make him stronger.” He was already strong. In Job 1:8, God pointed out that Job was perfect. Isn’t that saying, no problem needed to be addressed.

2. This is one of the things that Eliphaz said to Job. In Job 5:17, Eliphaz calls Job’s troubles, “the chastening of the Lord.” The majority of theologians will agree that some of the things said by Job’s friends are true, in at least some circumstances. They certainly didn’t apply to Job however. “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” In 42:7, God reprimands Job’s friends saying, “…You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” God’s statement should make us suspicious of much of what Job’s friends said.

I’ve heard private conversations concerning requests for prayer, questioning whether these things have happened to people because they are being chastened. The people only asked for prayer, not condemnation. Job’s friends went on and on with this sort of thing. I think one of the things Job said back to Eliphaz is a good answer. He said in verse 6:14, “To him that is afflicted, pity should be shown by his friend.”

In verse 1:8, God calls Job his servant. The book of Job has been a comfort to many people. We can look at this book when we are hurting and say, “My troubles are not as bad as what Job went through.” Job felt like we do sometimes, but God didn’t turn against him.

We needed someone who could serve as this sort of example. It would be more true to say that Job suffered for our sake than for his own. Job serves as a prophetic symbol of Jesus Christ, the “suffering servant.” Satan uses people like pawns, but God does not. We should always keep in mind that Jesus is ‘the King who sacrificed himself for the pawns’.

All these things happened to Job because he served God. He was more like his maker than his friends were. I certainly don’t understand everything that is in the book of Job, but if we’re careful we can learn a lot about life from it. We can learn to be better friends to someone when they’re down and out. Sometimes things are our fault and sometimes not. Sometimes we can’t even tell the difference in our own lives, much less in that of someone else.

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When the queen threatened his life, Elijah fled to “the mountain of God,” and hid in a cave. I know that the “mountain of God” is symbolic of the return of Jesus, and the establishment of his kingdom at that time. He is the “…stone cut out without hands,” that “became a great mountain…”(Daniel 2:34,35).

The cave that sheltered Elijah, is symbolic of the spear wound in Jesus’ side. The Hebrew word for cave in 1st. Kings 19:9-13 is “marah.” Marah is similar to “morah,” a word for fear, and also to Moriah, the mount where Jesus would later be crucified. You can read more about this word family in my page “the Messiah.”

Anyway, God spoke to him when he was in the cave, asking him what he was doing there. The exact sequence of events in this passage is hard to get straight. In 1st. Kings 19:11, where God instructs Elijah to stand in the entrance of the cave, the Septuagint adds the word “tomorrow.” Maybe there’s a hidden meaning in these verses or, maybe not. Verses eleven and twelve, say that God wasn’t in the wind, the earthquake, or the fire, that caused Elijah to run back into the cave.

The Hebrew words “ruwach” (translated “wind”, and in one place “anger”), “raash” (“rocking” or “earthquake”) and “esh” (fire), have a strange poetic sound about them. Incidentally, this is probably the same place in the cliff where God covered Moses with his hand as he passed by (Exodus 33:22).

The Calvinists might say that God still caused all these things, even though he wasn’t in them. Can he cause something and not be “in” it? I believe that God kept those things from actually being worse than they were. I also believe that some answers can be worse than no answers at all. That’s where Job’s “friends” were guilty. They repeatedly came up with all those answers for Job, that didn’t apply to his case at all. God finally rebuked those men for their words (Job 42:7)

Anyway, after the wind, earthquake, and fire, God came to Elijah as a “still, small voice.” When Elijah heard the voice, he went out to the entrance of the cave. I believe that although God is not the actual cause of disasters, and tragedies, he is the shelter that we should run to. After it’s over, he is the quiet voice urging us to go on. It is human to run, and try to hide from disasters, and most often people blame God rather than seeking shelter with him. When Elijah was in the cave on the mountain, God protected him, but Elijah didn’t get any instructions from the disasters that happened one after another.

No matter how you interpret those verses, God was not in those things because that’s what the Bible says. There was an earthquake when Jesus died on the cross, and God ripped the curtain of the Temple from top to bottom. The anguish of God was revealed in that earthquake. When the Babylonians threw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the furnace, someone else was seen walking in the fire with them. God was with them in that fire. Elijah had at one time prayed to die. That was a prayer that God did not answer. Elijah never died. God carried him alive to Heaven in a “whirlwind.” God was in that wind, and so was Elijah.

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Who is the truth? Who defines what truth is? Who decides what’s good or evil? Some deny that truth exists, but for every question, there is an answer that is either true or false. Science exists to search for truth. Some scientists, as well as some theologians once thought the earth was flat. The Bible in Isaiah 40:22 mentions the sphere of the earth. It’s translated as “circle” in our English versions, which some try to say means a flat circle, but that interpretation doesn’t fit the passage. Either the earth is flat, or it is round. The truth is that the earth is round. You can see there is such a thing as truth.

So, who is truth? You would get a lot of answers to that question. The atheist thinks that he is the truth. He thinks neither Intelligent Design, nor Creationism, have a place in education, and he works tirelessly to be sure that they don’t. There are many denominations of atheists also. Some reject violence, while others such as Joseph Stalin wouldn’t hesitate to murder millions of their own countrymen. Even the agnostic thinks he is the truth. He says that no one can know the truth, and he is certain that he speaks the truth. A true agnostic would admit that someone else could possibly know the truth. That would be more honest.

The Roman Caesars were so sure they were the truth, that they commanded everyone to worship them above all gods. Christians, or anyone else, who would not bow to them were persecuted. The Antichrist will be like the Caesars, except that modern computer technology will enable him to have much greater control. Muslims think Mohammed is the truth. They probably wouldn’t say it that way, but since they haven’t heard from God directly, they must take Mohammed’s word for it.

Of all the different interpretations of Islam, Atheism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Agnosticism, Secularism, Christianity, or whatever else there is, which is true? The Tree of Knowledge really messed us up. Now, we are actually forced to judge these things, with little information to go on. Some think they can refrain from judging by refusing to hear the case. That in itself is a judgement however. We’re really getting to exercise our “knowledge.”

The Bible says “we all have knowledge”, and that we get all puffed up about it (1st. Corinthians 8:1). The Bible teaches that God came to this world to try to cut through all the red tape and confusion, caused by our “knowledge.” He is beaten, bloodied, and torn by all the strife and division among us. In the prophecy about the crucifixion of the Messiah in Psalm 22, The Lord says, “All my bones are out of joint.” Who can deny that this is true? He sacrificed himself trying to get through to our hearts, calling for us to believe in him, and not in ourselves.

The disagreement over who is truth, has certainly led to a lot of conflict. It isn’t even the church that is the truth, but only Jesus, as any true church will tell you. The belief that Jesus is the truth, is the one Christian doctrine that angers the world above all the others. That doesn’t make sense to most people. It once didn’t make sense to me. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but the ends thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12). Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). His words make perfect sense if he is who he claimed to be.

The evidence in his favor is overwhelming, but if Jesus isn’t allowed a voice in our world, you aren’t going to hear it. Paradise cannot exist with Adam, Eve, all their descendants, Antichrist, Satan, and all the fallen angels, aspiring to be like gods, and trying to determine what should be good, and what should be called evil.

Proverbs 10:12, says that love covers all sins, and 1st. Peter 4:8, says very nearly the same thing. That is what the blood of Jesus is. It is the blood of love. The world has a version of love that rejects the truth of Jesus. The Biblical definition of love in 1st. Corinthians 13:6 includes, “rejoicing in truth.” That is where the world’s definition of love falls short.

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Science records observations, foresees certain possibilities, and forms theories accordingly. Then come the experiments attempting to verify the theories. Today’s science fiction is often tomorrows science.

The Bible shows much greater foresight than all of science. As a matter of fact, most themes of science have an origin in the ideas of the Bible. It works like this. Stories evolve over time from bits and pieces gleaned from the Bible, and from God’s interaction with early man. These stories contain elements of truth that are incorporated into myths, false religions, or science fiction stories.

Some of those elements are recognized by science at some point as possibly being factual, and then the investigation begins in earnest. There are mysteries to be solved, and there’s money to be made, so science goes to work. The Bible is vindicated, and sometimes fulfilled in the process, but it usually goes unrecognized. Most people don’t know those ideas are from the Bible, because a bias against it has been introduced into the human mind.

I find if I tell someone that something is in the Bible, in a lot of cases it will anger them. I have been asked, “What does the Bible have to do with it.” Well, I was just attempting to show that the Bible does have something to say about things. I said all that to introduce another facet of the relationship between God and light.

“Time” is a very difficult subject. Einstein formed his “theory of relativity” to account for observations that the speed of light in a vacuum is constant. The data seems to verify his theory, and it’s now considered proven. I use the word “seems” because science recognizes there are often special cases where known scientific laws no longer apply, and new theories come into play.

That is something often overlooked. A theory may be formed that will account for the known attributes of a force. That theory may be accepted as the gospel until new data forces science to look for another explanation. Light is currently explained by two theories, because neither theory fully accounts for all that is known about it.

All analogies fail at some point, but if the comparison of God to light continues, science may find a need for a trinity of theories to fully explain light. Wikipedia has some very good articles on light, and related topics.

Theories speculating that the speed of light has changed over time exist, but apparently the evidence is not conclusive. The fact that the speed of light in a vacuum is now constant has led scientists to acknowledge what they call counter-intuitive conclusions. One of which is that time would pass at a greatly altered rate, if travel at the speed of light could be attained.

Time dilation has actually been confirmed experimentally a number of times. Although the experiments are not on the scale of the time anomalies recorded in the Bible, the experiments help us see that a general agreement exists between the Bible and relativity. I’m listing this agreement as the next evidence.

9. “Relativity” seems to agree with the Bible. It can help us to gain greater understanding of the relationship of time and light to the eternal nature of God.

The Bible plainly leads us to the conclusion that God exists and operates outside of time. In other words, God can time-travel. Not only that, but he can create anomalies that people have traditionally thought of as miracles. A day can be like a thousand years to God, or a thousand years like one day.  Here are a few of the more spectacular events recorded in the Bible.

a. (Genesis 2:7,8, & 19-23) On the sixth day, God created Adam and placed him in the garden of Eden, and brought the animals to Adam for him to name. From Adam’s perspective, time within that day was long enough for him to comprehend loneliness, and to have a rib surgically removed. Then by some cloning process, for lack of better terminology, God transformed the rib into a woman and brought her to Adam, all on the same day. If someone had made this up, they would have lengthened the time span to make it more believable.

b. (Joshua 10:13) When the sun and moon stood still during the battle, God may have created a local time anomaly. People outside the area may not have noticed a thing.

c. (2nd. Kings 20:9-11) The same thing may be true when God caused the shadow on the sundial to go backwards.

d. (Luke 4:5) I interpret the word “moment” in this verse to be an actual moment. Satan apparently can alter time within whatever boundaries that God has set.

e. (John 6:21) A straight-forward reading of “immediately the ship was at the land,” makes this sound like some sort of time-related “miracle.”

f. (Matthew 17:1-3) When Jesus was transfigured in the mount, he talked with Moses and Elijah, men from totally differently eras.

g. (Daniel 7:25) The Antichrist will think to change “times and laws.” I believe that he’ll try to do this through the miracles of science, rather than the normal procedures that all rulers follow.

The Bible and science are both pretty far out when it comes to astrophysics. Don’t let that throw you. There are plenty of down to earth evidences that I pray to get to later. Science is advanced enough at this point for us to see that the miracles of the Bible don’t contradict sound scientific principles at all.

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The Bible compares God to light in 1st. John 1:5. I listed that as number 3 in “the Evidence”. I realize that a superficial comparison could be made of the way light reveals objects, and the way God is said to have created all things. John could also have linked the observed behavior of light through a prism with the trinity of God. They probably were aware of this property of a prism in John’s day. I’m going to add some things from my page “Trinity” as separate evidences here.

4. “Light,” which makes all things visible, is itself invisible to our eyes, just as God is (See “Trinity”). To be fair, John could have deduced that property of light from the fact that no beam of light is seen traveling from the sun to the moon. We can only “see” the light when it is reflected directly to our eyes. Someone could complain that John didn’t specifically say all these things. He did make the comparison though, and I think it’s fair to see how much like light that God is. We’ll get a better picture of God as a result.

5. In the Revelation, the last book of the Bible, John describes the brightness of the appearance of Jesus, as if he’s looking at a photographic negative. That’s an odd thing since they didn’t have photography back then. This could possibly be a coincidence.

6. At least for a little while, Peter and John had possession of the burial shroud of Jesus. The Shroud of Turin, that many believe to be his burial shroud, is itself a photographic negative. “The Mystery of the Shroud of Turin,” by John C. Iannone, is a good book on the subject. There may be others more up to date, but it’s the latest book that I’ve read. I personally believe the Shroud is the burial shroud of Jesus. That is far easier for me to believe, than to believe any artist could have forged such a wonder.

7. Speaking of art, I think the beauty of creation is a great evidence of design, and it is light that reveals beauty to us. The color of an object is not due to the object itself, but from the wavelengths of light it reflects. The play of light upon creation reveals form, motion, hues, and shades, that are pleasant to see, and seem intended to be so. I’ll try to get to the fact that not everything is beautiful later on.

8. Light is a form of energy. God is also said to be “spirit.” From the Bible descriptions, “spirit” must be some form of conscious, living energy. Would science agree that such a thing could be possible? I think many scientists would. Life itself may be that sort of thing. I can say that, since we don’t know for sure exactly what life is. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…” Maybe this is a scientific truth, as well as a spiritual one.

The Bible does not draw a line between “natural,” and “supernatural.” Mankind has drawn that line, and I think the church has been conned into seeing it as the world does. The Bible does use the word “miracle,” but it doesn’t say that miracles are beyond the realm of reality and knowledge. They are simply beyond our present knowledge.

The Bible teaches that God is not limited by the laws of physics. The “miracles of science” become realities simply because science gains some new knowledge that allows us to circumvent rules of nature. Do we think that we, through science, can learn to do things that God could not do? All scientists could gain much insight into their particular fields by studying the Bible.

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