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Archive for the ‘Predestination’ Category

Much of the meaning is shrouded in mystery. Who has slain the Lamb? Who has murdered innocence? Man is wearing the bloody clothes, but in one way or another, all things have been twisted around to make it sound like God is to blame for everything. Theists get it turned around, and Atheists get it turned around, but God himself is the Lamb (Acts 2:22-24, Revelation 22:3, John 1:1-3, 1:14, & 14:6-10).

Many Atheists make use of the theistic teaching of “predestination” to turn people against God. Some of them have personally objected to the way I read the Script, telling me that I am misinterpreting the Bible. That is because it weakens their argument to consider that God is good, and that the Bible can be shown to make sense.

We can truly understand God only in the light of the Lamb (Revelation 21:23). There is nothing else in all the history of creation that reveals God in his true colors as does his suffering on the cross. It is the only way that he can reach us, touch us, change our hearts and minds (John 3:16, Genesis 3:21).

Man gets everything turned around when he eats of the tree of knowledge, makes his own moral judgements, and reinterprets all matters for himself (Genesis 3:5). It is this alienation of mankind from God, and the blame which man places upon him that slays the Lamb. I have read the atheist’s proclamation, “God is dead, we killed him,” but we are all just as guilty. Our rejection of him is the murder weapon. Some of us, having understood this are filled with regret. We become repentant, and are glad that he is back alive.

The English word “repand,” from the Latin word “repandus,” means bent backward. To feel sorrow and regret is considered a “secondary” meaning of the word “repent,” but being sorry is primary to the process of changing from our bent (or bias).

Contrary to what you may have heard preached, God took no pleasure in the suffering of Christ; it’s his own skin. That doctrine is an example of misinterpretation due to the multiple meanings that words have come to have. Because of multiple meanings, the correct interpretation of many Bible verses is not the first thing that comes to mind when it is read. That is one reason why it is so critical for us to trust God. It is similar to the need for us to trust one another in order for understanding to exist.

The literal meaning of the word translated as “pleased” in Isaiah 53:10, (It pleased the Lord to bruise him) is “to bend.” A secondary meaning is “incline.” “Pleased,” is a figurative meaning. There are other meanings but “pleased” is the most commonly used. The Septuagint, the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, translates Isaiah 53:10 to indicate the Lord’s pleasure is not in the suffering and death, but in the great deliverance from it. “The Lord also is pleased to purge (to remove) him from his stroke.”

The same Hebrew word (in its original spelling) is translated as “purpose,” in Ecclesiastes 3:1, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” God takes no pleasure in our pain, or death (Ezekiel 18:32). Death is an enemy (1st Corinthians 15:26). Multiple meanings of words are often used by the Lord’s enemy to cause misunderstanding and rejection of God.

The thing that pleases God is that some of our hearts are won by what he has endured, and that is a great comfort to him. Despite the suffering of this world, some of us no longer reject God, even if we don’t understand parts of the Bible. We can begin to see what our mistrust has done to God and our fellowman. Who has slain the Lamb? Man’s DNA is at the crime. Our DNA was in Adam, when he dressed himself in leaves and hid among the trees.

We still have that reaction to God. We need a long walk in the Light. It is God’s desire to walk with people (Genesis 3:8); to live in them, to find them where they are (Mark 2:15-17), and help them. He wants to be born in them, and we never know who will become his child. That is his great desire, his primary will, though he must allow us freedom even when our paths become painful.

People call this God’s “permissive” will, but it is not something that he desires. There we encounter more words with multiple meanings, but I don’t think we should think of that type of thing as “God’s will.” That is like saying that a student’s misbehavior is the teacher’s will when she steps out of the room, or that it is the will of the policeman for us to break the law when he isn’t around.

Sometimes, there seem to be no perfect words to use, for all the words have taken on unfortunate meanings. It isn’t completely right to say that God tolerates, or allows evil, or that he is permissive, assenting, or consenting. God’s momentary silence doesn’t mean that he condones our behavior. “Forbearing” is probably one of the best words to describe God.

He “endures” our world (2nd Peter 3:9), temporarily not fully enforcing that which is right (ref. The Lost Child of Freedom, in my August 2012 archives). The longer that God simply endures us, the harder we become. The Greek word “endurece(r)” is the origin of our word “endures.” It is translated as “hardens” in nearly all English versions of Romans 9:18. That is another verse often taken out of context and misunderstood.

God either endears us, or he endures us. We should all be endeared to God, but if he must only endure us, then there is good reason for it. Time will tell. Anyway, to the extent that God does not intervene, bad things may happen to anyone. That doesn’t mean that it is “God will.”

The paths that we choose in difficult circumstances are often not what we desire, but are influenced by other factors. It is the same way with God. Nevertheless, God is deeply involved in the intricate details of our lives, and our desires and prayers influence certain outcomes in ways that we can’t conceive. We should remain thankful.

In (or through) everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (1st Thessalonians 5:18). The first word of that verse, “in,” is one of many words that could have been used. According to The New Strong’s Expanded Dictionary of Bible Words (for the KJV), the Greek word “en,” is translated as “by” (141 times), “with” (134 times), “among” (117 times), “at” (112 times), “on” (46 times), “through” (37 times), other miscellaneous words (321 times), and “in” (1874 times).

In spite of our circumstances, it is the desire of God for us to find things to be thankful for. I thank God that he is with us through all these things. Though man has slain the Lamb (Acts 2:22-24), I am thankful that he loved us enough to bend to save us. I thank God that we can still make sense of the Bible, in spite of (or sometimes, because of) the multiple meanings of words. I pray that we all have a happy Thanksgiving.

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I love learning, but much that is called “knowledge” is either incomplete or false, and even that which is true is often misapplied. Greater knowledge and endless data won’t solve all our problems (1st Corinthians 8:1-2). Adam and Eve would tell us that today, but we wouldn’t necessarily believe them.

Sometimes we are simply unable to do that which we know should be done. I know that my family needs more money coming in than we have going out, but that knowledge doesn’t help me. Organizations that know more about making money than I do are stealing my lunch money. What can I do about it? The devil can keep us so busy swatting at flies that it can become our way of life. Regardless of what I know, try, or pray, I’m living on the verge of simply reacting to the next crisis. The future depends upon the intervention of God.

There is some truth in the saying that it takes money to make money. Instead of striving to make necessities as affordable as possible, the focus of most of those with money is on the greatest return on investments. This means trouble for the “working poor.” It means trouble for our country, for money goes where money is to be made, whether it in the best interest of our neighbors or not. Knowledge doesn’t prevent greed; it only makes it smarter.

Misapplied knowledge is hurtful, but so is a lack of knowledge. Partially conceived doctrines, chiseled into law, can prevent us from understanding the real reasons why the world is as it is. That is true of secular doctrines as well as religious. Man’s abuse of God-given freewill, along with a quest for knowledge and fulfilment apart from God, creates an environment where many evil things happen unforeseen. The Bible says that “time and chance” happen to all of us (Ecclesiastes 9:11). Calling the consequences of all of humanity’s wrong choices “God’s will,” keeps people from understanding the goodness of God.

In many cases, laws intended to counteract evil come to stand in direct conflict with God, even to the point where God and truth are criminalized. Jesus was “counted” with the transgressors (Mark 15:28, Isaiah 53:12). Laws don’t always work out the way they were intended. Just as knowledge fails us, so does the rule of law. At their heart, both knowledge and law can be said to be good, yet both fail due to problems of the human heart, and ultimately the only thing that can pull us through is the grace of love (“God is love,” 1st John 4:16).

Since “God is love,” it follows that a doctrine that isn’t tempered by love can never be purely “Christian.” Doctrines that lift their bearers above question are almost always questionable, and doctrines devoid of love can’t express the character of the inventor and creator of love. Such doctrines can inhibit a real understanding of God, of ourselves, and our fellow human beings.

While I’m on the subject, no human being has ever mastered the art of consistently being sensitive to the feelings of others. That is something that every Christian, on every day of the week, could repent of.

Unfeigned love for others is critical in communicating truth and doctrine. If we “have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge…, and have not love,” we are nothing (1st Corinthians 13:2). It is possible to be versed in correct doctrine without possessing the thing that really counts. Without love our doctrines can become a clanging symbol just as incomprehensible as any unknown tongue (1st Corinthians 13:1).

Some parts of the Bible are “hard to understand,” and can be interpreted in a destructive way (2nd Peter 3:15-16). It follows that if we destroy someone spiritually with our “strong meat” (Hebrews 5:14), then according to Romans 14:15, we are not “walking in love.”

It is so easy to miss the trail when we speak of “walking in love.” Love rejoices in truth, thinks no evil, and seeks the good of others before its own. We often “miss it.” That is what the word sin means; a missing of the mark (ref. the Hebrew word “chata,” and the Greek “hamartano”). Sin is a lack, or an abuse, of love. Other people use the fact the we “miss it” as an excuse to embrace “no religion,” or to invent new religions, or new denominations, but Jesus died for us, and the reason that Christianity exists is because all human beings miss the mark.

Forgiveness must exist because we all fall short of perfect love. By our hand, love is sacrificed, but love is sacrificial. That is what the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is all about. Knowledge branches out on all tangents, but can never quite explain the sacrifices of love. According to 1st Timothy 1:5, the goal of the commandment is love, but no law can make us love anyone. The chain of the law can’t bind our heart to the heart of God.

Romans 10:4 says that Jesus is the end of the law for the believer. The broken link between Heaven and Earth is drawn together in the crucifixion of Jesus, one hand holding yours and mine, and the other in the hand of the Father of love.

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In the daily struggles of our lives, a powerful force is at work tirelessly pressing us into castes and molds. We have choices as we are swept along, but the right choices aren’t always easy to make. Such resistance as we encounter in life tends to push us toward extremes. We are warped and twisted, assigned to this classification or that. If we escape the mold here, then we are pressed into the next. The force is determined to rank us into divisions to be played against one other. It isn’t God who is doing this, but that which the Bible (2nd Corinthians 4:4) calls “the god of this world.”

Only the true God can free us. Even then, our problems are not over. God seeks to preserve our individuality as well as to organize us as an effective body, but our divisions quench his Spirit (John 17:20-21 & 1st Thessalonians 5:19). The world force is yet attempting to make our choices for us. Within our denominations and divisions, we are trained to take a narrow view of God, as if our little group were the lone keeper of the faith. We attempt to contain the God of the universe in these little molds (2nd Chronicles 6:18).

In their own way, theists can be every bit as dogmatic about their beliefs as atheists and evolutionists. One of the effects of Adam’s tree of knowledge (the mind games tree, Genesis 2:17) is that human beings tend to feel as if they are always “right,” or at least within the correct framework. In order to actually solve our problems, we would first have to agree that none of us understands everything, and that we need each other. All human beings “know” something, but we know nothing to the degree that we should (1st Corinthians 8:2).

While Jesus is most certainly the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), he is also the door opening to ever greater truth (John 14:26, & 16:12-14). We don’t “get” it all at one time; we don’t even “get” it in a lifetime. Even the Apostle Paul didn’t claim to have “arrived” (Philippians 3:12-14). In Earth’s great contest of wills however, man quickly tires of trying to reason with others, and soon resorts to other methods. This usually means force or coercion in one form or another.

Men who think the will of God is accomplished through these power struggles may invoke his name, but “God” has become just another tool used to attain private goals. If men can make a thing happen, they will likely think that it is the will of God. Following that line of reason, the notion arises that everything that happens must be the will of God. In recent years I’ve heard an increasing number of sermons attributing this world’s evils to God as if all the minions of Satan were simply performing assignments predestined by God. It’s enough to make you wonder which side some of us are on. I have even heard a Christian leader give thanks to God for the terrorism of ISIS. Christians should mourn instead of rejoicing over the sorrows befalling our world.

The “god of this world” who misshapes education and morality, also distorts religion. The abuse of religious power during the Middle Ages set the stage for today’s religious confusion. It supplies endless fuel for the pro-pagan-da of all of Earth’s different “isms” and schisms, and paves the way for the Antichrist.

We should look at none of the people of these groups as our enemy (Ephesians 6:12). It must not become “us against them.” The enemy is “the god of this world,” the dark force which divides humans beings, separating them from God in order to destroy them. Our enemy is confusion, misunderstanding and falsehood.

The religious reformers of the Middle Ages were justified in resisting the excesses of established religion, but not in their adoption and use of the same tactics which had been used to persecute them. They might have reformed others, but most of them were not reformed themselves. These groups who burned each other at the stake for “heresy” can’t blame everything on the “civil authorities.” That will not excuse them before God. Galatians 5:15 was written primarily to Christians; “If you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.”

Satan changes tactics to fit the situation, and as long as people are fighting each other, he doesn’t seem to care much who is winning. When extreme persecution of the early Christians by the Roman government failed to destroy Christianity, the “god of this world” simply moved into the church to destroy it from within. Beware of any group that resorts to violence, whether it wears the sheep’s clothing of religion, or any of the many“cool” disguises of the day. Mercy is to be desired (James 2:13) instead of judgement, and none of us are qualified to cast stones.

Don’t get me wrong; the god of this world is not the equal of God, but Satan is able to take advantage of our human weakness and ignorance to cause a great deal of confusion over the Bible as well as everything else. As his attack upon Job illustrates (Job 1:9-11), Satan is using this world’s evils to embitter human hearts against God. I’m afraid that many Christians today are reinforcing that same message.

I don’t know who to credit for the following saying. My Dad always named a poor, old, lady whenever he quoted it, but I forget her name. She said, “When it’s every man for himself, it’s the devil for them all.”

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I absolutely believe that God can time travel, and that he knows what the future holds. When he chooses, he has the ability to take human beings along. Peter, James, and John once witnessed a meeting of Jesus, Moses and Elijah (Luke 9:28-31). Moses lived and died many centuries earlier, and Elijah was born a few centuries later than Moses. They talked about the crucifixion of Jesus which would soon take place at Jerusalem.

That meeting on the mountain may have been the origin of some of the prophecies found in Old Testament writings. If God chose, he could know the destiny of every individual, and if we were willing, he could take us down a different road. Our destiny is affected by our willingness to listen. We are taught that we can affect the length of our life by honoring our mother and father (Ephesians 6:2-3, Exodus 20:12).

The ultimate destiny of the forgiven is to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus, and become children of God (Romans 8:29-30, Genesis 1:26-27). If we are unwilling to trust God, there is a conflict of wills and no promise that we would ever change, even upon meeting him face to face. When a human being hardens their heart against God, further contact with God sometimes only worsens the divide. The Pharoah of Egypt could have set the Hebrew slaves free if he had been willing, but God knew beforehand what Egypt’s stance would be (Exodus 3:19-20).

Pharoah had already hardened his own heart long before word came from God to free the slaves. In Exodus 5:2, Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go.” God’s command had served only to make him more self-willed and determined. Please, do not get bogged down in some “predestination” doctrine by thinking that Pharoah had no choice in the matter.

The words “predestinate,” and “predestinated,” are each in the Bible twice, though the principle occurs in other places. On the other hand, the word “if,” is used over 1500 times in the Bible (counts and translations vary), plus similar words and phrases are used many more times. Many of the uses are regarding conditional promises of God that depend upon our choices. We are told that if we will listen, that some good will follow. For instance, if we confess the Lord Jesus, we will be saved (Romans 10:9).

There are some cases where God chooses to intervene in a more direct way to influence a particular person. When Saul (whose name was later changed to “Paul”) was persecuting the early Christians, Jesus changed his life by confronting him in person (Acts 9:1-6). That isn’t the way that God ordinarily chooses. Almighty God, who has the power to turn the heart of a king “wherever he will (Proverbs 21:1),” also has the self-restraint to allow freewill and choice. Though “God is not willing that any should perish (2nd Peter 3:9),” he is also not willing to force his will upon unwilling man.

In dealing with difficult subjects of the Bible such as predestination and freewill, which may seem to contradict each other, it’s best not to go to extremes. God has foreknowledge of events, but that doesn’t mean that he causes those events to happen. The fact that some things are said to be predestined doesn’t mean that everything is, and though humans, angels, and God have freewill, that doesn’t mean that we have uncontested freewill. The moves that we are free to make often involve a contest of wills with others around us. That is the normal situation at home, work, in school, church, or wherever.

A caution from Revelation 22:18-19 to those who teach that all things are predetermined by God; you should beware of removing the word “if” from the Bible. We are warned against adding to the words of God’s prophecy, or taking words away. Revelation 22:17 gives us a choice, “Whosoever will, let him come drink of the water of life freely.” We are not predestined to refuse to drink.

If…. If we had all sat down like reasonable, caring, human beings, and studied everything over, man could long ago have arrived at a much better understanding of the Bible, and of God. God would have been in that reasoning process. As it is, life is a great contest of wills, and man isn’t as interested in finding the actual truth as he is in venerating his own version of it.

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