Monday, March 24, 2014

He Could Care Less?

Is the Bible Literally True?
No, of Course Not!
Most people could care less whether it is or it isn't. If you're reading this, however, you probably care at least enough to read this.

To me, the Bible is important. It is for me the sacred story of the origins of my faith. In light of this, I could no more feel as if it were unimportant than a follower of Hinduism would feel the Bhagavad Gita is unimportant.

I do not believe, however, that the Bible is a Divinely-dictated book or a sacred text without error.

That was the beginning to an article by [Dr. Steve McSwain] on [The Huffington Post] that was published on [March 14, 2014], and I highly recommend reading the rest of the article—regardless of whether or not you currently could NOT care less about what Dr. McSwain has to say.  For you should care a lot about what others have to say about our Heavenly Father and the trueness of His Holy Scriptures.

Alas, do you not find it quite telling that such a learned person as Dr. McSwain could open with such a stupid line?  For it is could not care less—not could care less.

No, I do not mean to be insulting—certainly not in regards to messing up a line.  For I do it quite often, and it upsets me greatly when my mistakes are not realized until after they have been published.

Nonetheless, the use of stupid is most appropriate when someone knows not what they are saying, much in the same way as when someone is in a drunken stupor.  Such is the case with this article by Dr. McSwain—be assured.

Yes, historical accounts of significant events by mere human eyewitnesses are important as educational resources, but do we not have a tendency to see what we want to see (and read what we want to read)?  Subsequently, it is entirely possible for two different people to see vastly different things when watching an event unfold before their eyes, and even in cases when two different people see the same thing and write exactly the same things about it, two different people can read those accounts and come to (sometimes drastically) different conclusions.

Therefore, how can anything contained in our Heavenly Father's Holy Bible be of any great significance if it is merely a collection of ancient stories by people not so unlike ourselves?  More importantly, how can we truly understand what His Holy Scriptures are meant to convey without the witness of His Holy Spirit to explain what is truly what?  This is what Dr. McSwain is missing.  May it not be his fault.

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Monday, March 3, 2014

Destination: Known

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. [Romans 8:29 NIV]

Some (quite a few, actually) have been led to believe in John Calvin’s view of predestination.  If you are not familiar with it, Calvin asserted that our Heavenly Father created some for glory and all others for destruction.

It is argued that Romans 8:29, along with the rest of the passage, supports Calvin’s view.  For it is written: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.  And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.  What, then, shall we say in response to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?  It is God who justifies.  Who then is the one who condemns?  No one.  Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Romans 8:28-39 NIV]

Of course, it could be also argued that the passage supports the Doctrine of Universal Reconciliation, which is that all of mankind will be reconciled with our Creator someday.  For if nothing can separate us from the love of our Heavenly Father, then nothing can keep us separated from Him.

It all depends upon just who are us—does it not?  Another passage in Romans makes it quite clear that it is not everyone.  For it is written: I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit—I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.  For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel.  Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.  Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised!  Amen.  It is not as though God’s word had failed.  For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.  Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children.  On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”  In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.  For this was how the promise was stated: “At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.”  Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac.  Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”  Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”  What then shall we say?  Is God unjust?  Not at all!  For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”  It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.  For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”  Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.  One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us?  For who is able to resist his will?”  But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God?  “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”  Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?  What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction?  What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory—even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?  As he says in Hosea: “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,”  and, “In the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘children of the living God.’”  Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved.  For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality.”  It is just as Isaiah said previously: “Unless the Lord Almighty had left us descendants, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah.”  What then shall we say?  That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal.  Why not?  Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works.  They stumbled over the stumbling stone.  As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.” [Romans 9:1-33 NIV]

Hmm, what was the promise made to Abraham?  Was it not that all nations would be blessed through him?  For it is written: So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”  Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham.  Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”  So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. [Galatians 3:6-9 NIV]

No, that cannot be right.  For faith in our Creator (or even His Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ) would be irrelevant if no one is given a choice of who they want to belong to.

Alas, the points and counterpoints on this issue could go back and forth until the time for this world to end comes to pass.  For whom from among us has the wisdom to naturally understand what our Heavenly Father has wanted to accomplish in this world?  Yet, have not many of us been given opportunities to experience it (to a certain extent) for ourselves?

Be assured that I have—both the good and the bad of it.  For Arlynda and I look forward to celebrating our twentieth wedding anniversary on the fifteenth of April this year, and the relationship I have been allowed and enabled to have with her has been so very good.  Ah, but before she was placed in my life, my heart had been shattered into a thousand pieces far too many times for my comfort by ladies, who did not want me to have and to hold until death did us part.  Furthermore, I have three children by two of those ladies, who do not want me as their earthly father.

No, it should not be thought that I needed to experience all of those bad relationships before I could fully appreciate the good one I now have.  For how could I have been so miserable before without having much of an idea about what a good relationship should be like?

Yes, there is a big difference between knowing about something and actually experiencing it up close and oh so very personally, and it is because of all my bad experiences that I can more fully understand where the wrath that our Heavenly Father will pour out upon the wicked, come Judgment Day, is coming from.  For I have been allowed and enabled to feel the excruciating pain of rejection.  In fact, I still am in respect to reaching out to those I have been given to help with truly having a very close and personal relationship with our Heavenly Father—only to often have what I have been given to say to them summarily dismissed before it has been fully presented.

The work that I have been called to help with would certainly be so much easier if it could be taken not so personally, but how is this possible?  For when you offer your heart to another, there is a risk of it being torn asunder.

Not so when it comes to our Heavenly Father’s heart.  That is, if it is indeed true that He created some for glory and all of the rest for destruction, of course.

So, what justifies the wrath that He will pour out upon the wicked, come Judgment Day?  After all, if it is indeed true that they were created for destruction, what reason would our Heavenly Father have to be so angry with them?

To those who will want to humble themselves enough to accept it, the absolute truth of the matter is actually very simple.  For our Heavenly Father created all of mankind to give Himself opportunities to receive a very special kind of love from us.

It is the same kind of love that I have been allowed and enabled to receive from my longsuffering wife, Arlynda.  For she has never seen me physically healthy, which has kept me from earning a good living while we have been married.  In fact, she has earned much more money than I have the past twenty years, and yet, she delights in being married to me!

This is what our Heavenly Father wants from us, despite it appearing much more likely that most (if not all) of us were created to be the objects of His scorn—certainly not His affections.  For even what we would naturally consider to be the best of lives in this world is nothing in comparison to the glory of the worst of lives in His Kingdom of Heaven, and He could have placed all of us in His Kingdom of Heaven to begin with.

Is that not what He did with the angels?  Were they not created without need of clothes, shelter and food?  Were their bodies not created to be incorruptible by disease and decay?  Therefore, how much more valuable to Him must be the kind of love that He can receive from us after He has made us live in this world as we naturally are.

Of course, in order for the kind of love that He can receive from us to be of the most value, it must be accepted that our Heavenly Father has actually did all that He has done.  For there would be nothing to give Him the full benefit of our considerable doubts about if He had nothing to do with our plight in this world.

It is in respect to our Heavenly Father truly being in full control of all that happens that there is some truth to predestination, which is what Romans 8:28-39 is actually addressing.  For who becomes financially rich or poor is entirely in His hands, which also applies to who lives a physically healthy life and who does not [Job 12:13-25], with it all depending upon what He wants to accomplish in and through each individual [Isaiah 46:8-13].

Be assured that what our Creator most wants to accomplish in this world is for each and every one of us, on an individual basis and without exception, to want to accept Him as truly being their own Heavenly Father and to want to truly be one of children by faith.  For it would not accomplish His purposes to force anyone to spend all of eternity with Him in His Kingdom of Heaven as an heir to all that is His in glory against their will, and if they had no choice in the matter, the kind of love that He could receive from them would be of far less value than if they were given the freedom to reject the love that He has always had for them.

Yes, it is naturally inconceivable to most that the Creator of all that exists (apart from Himself, of course) would purposely subject Himself to all of the anguish that He truly has.  I know that I would not naturally want to love someone when I knew that they would break my heart, but unless it is conceded that our Heavenly Father must not care, it must be accepted that this is exactly what He has done.  For if it is indeed true that He is all-knowing, it has to be true that He has known since before He created Adam and Eve just who would and would not want to accept Him as truly being their own Heavenly Father and want to truly be one of His children by faith.

Quite sadly, far too many in the Christian community have been led to believe that our Creator only loves those who love Him.  Does this not require some more thought?  For if Heavenly Father can actually be that cold-hearted, just how wonderful could spending all of eternity with Him really be?  Besides, it is written: We love because he first loved us. [1 John 4:19 NIV]

No, it is not a matter of injustice.  For our Heavenly Father has the right to do with what He has created for His own good pleasure as He sees fit—even by the corrupt legal standards of this world, but what does it tell us about His heart if He is indeed capable of creating so many for destruction, without any opportunity to be saved from having to face what we all deserve to receive in the end, which is eternal spiritual death [Romans 6:23]?  Moreover, what does it say about your own heart if this is okay with you?

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