Eternal Life

What is eternal life? Well, the Greek word that is translated as ‘eternal’ in the New Testament is a word that means: “1) without beginning and end, that which always has been and always will be 2) without beginning 3) without end, never to cease, everlasting.” Using those definitions, we can readily see that number one and two apply to God and definition number three is applicable to eternal life as it refers to the prospective fate of saved humanity. But as we read the Bible, we discover that definition is not so cut and dried as it seems. For instance, in the book of Revelation, there is a descriptive scene in which the devil, the false prophet, and all those whose names were not found in the Book of Life, will be cast into the lake of fire and tormented forever. Now, the last time I checked; forever and everlasting were terms that meant basically the same thing! Hence there must be more to eternal life than just living forever, because, according to the Bible, everyone; the saved and the lost, will live forever! The question is where?

Another wrinkle in the equation comes from the revelation in the Bible that eternal life is not something that believers get when they die! The Bible teaches; eternal life is a present-possession of the believer! Jesus said, in John 5:24:  “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (ESV) Note the use of the past-tense; ‘has eternal life’ and ‘has passed from death to life.’ The beloved Apostle John wrote in 1 John 3:14-15: “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (ESV) Again, note the verb tense; eternal life is not something that is awarded to the believer at death, eternal life is a present-possession!

Therefore, since there is more to eternal life than just living forever and eternal life is something that believers presently possess, then apparently eternal life must also have something to do with the ‘quality’ of life! Jesus gave an insightful definition of eternal life in John 17:3. In his high priestly prayer in Gethsemane, on the eve of his passion, Jesus said to the Father: “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (ESV) According to Jesus, eternal life is knowing the only true God and knowing Jesus Christ who was sent by the only true God!

Now, this ‘knowing’ the only true God and ‘knowing’ Jesus Christ, who was sent by the only true God, is more than just an intellectual knowing. In the Bible, the terms; ‘know’ and ‘knowing’ are often used as euphemisms for intimate sexual relations. In the Genesis 4:1, we read: “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.” (ESV) It is obvious from the context, that the birth of Cain did not happen simply by Adam finding out all he could about Eve! No! The phrase; “Now Adam knew Eve his wife” meant Adam had ‘carnal knowledge,’ Adam had sexual intercourse with Eve and as a result; Cain was produced! In John 17:3, of course sexual intercourse is not in view, but rather an intimate spiritual relationship is suggested! Eternal life is an intimate spiritual relationship with the only true God and an intimate spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ, who was sent by the only true God!

Of course, the primary way to facilitate this spiritual relationship, from the human stance is to begin with intellectual knowledge. But, isn’t that how all relationships begin? People who are married, and even those who aren’t, didn’t become sexually intimate at first sight! (At least, they shouldn’t have, but it’s a different world these days!) No! Usually couples get to know one another first! And how do they get to know one another? They do so by the exchanging of ideas and thoughts through verbal and written communication. They talk to one another and they write notes and letters to one another! Well, in the same way, God speaks and communicates to humanity through His love letter; the Bible! In the Bible, we can read about what God is like, what God likes and what God dislikes! In the Bible we discover God’s character and attributes. As we respond to what we read in God’s love-letter to us, we follow God’s instructions and dictates and begin to communicate (pray) with Him. As we comply with God’s terms of the relationship as expressed in God’s love-letter, God gives us His Spirit to live within us and the relationship deepens to the level of spiritual intercourse through worship. Just as you can’t really make love (you can only have sex with) to a person you don’t know; we can only praise and worship God as we get to know Him. The acts of praise and worship (including prayer and the various other spiritual disciplines) strengthen and intensify the spiritual relationship that promotes and fosters, what Jesus called: eternal life!

As a result of eternal life, the believer lives a life that is qualitatively different and superior to the unbeliever who does not have eternal life. This eternal life is characterized by love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23) The believer consistently experiences, from day to day, God’s supernatural favor and grace in ways that cannot be rationally explained! Eternal life is not just a ‘retirement plan’ for life in Heaven nor just ‘fire insurance’ to insure against life in Hell; eternal life is the Kingdom life God originally intended and created man to have on earth, as outlined in Genesis 1:26-28. Because of sin, death (the physical separation of the body from the spirit/soul)  is the experience of all men! However, eternal life provides the means and assurance of victorious living in the present and in the future; eternal life is now and later!

Pseudo-Prophets & Blessings

There is a disturbing trend in much of the preaching in some church circles today. I’ve been hearing it for the past several years, but I was prompted to write about it after recently running across a Facebook post of a minister preaching a prophetic word of blessings. His message went something like this: “The Lord sent me here tonight to tell you that this is your season to be blessed!” Now mind you, this was said in an open preaching session with a church full of people, many who were saved, but no doubt; some who were not. My first issue with his statement is this: First of all, the people of God are already blessed with all/every blessing they need (see Ephesians 1:3 and 2 Peter 1:3) and secondly; the greatest need of the unsaved is the blessing of salvation! But in the context of this proclamation, it was obvious that the blessings the preacher were referring to were primarily physical and financial! But, was it possible that everybody in the room was at the same juncture in life? I think it was a bit presumptuous to assume everybody in that room was in the same place or on the same level spiritually. Therefore, even if it really was ‘someone’s’ season to be blessed {if there really is such a season} it wasn’t everyone’s season! I think it’s a dangerous practice to utter specific prophetic proclamations to general crowds! Then, the preacher really got the crowd involved by encouraging interaction, telling them: “Now, turn to your neighbor and tell them: ‘It’s your season!” Seriously? I think that sometimes, preachers do and say things because: (1) They saw or heard of somebody else (a well-known preacher) doing it! and (2) It looks or sounds spiritual or deep. But, if they were to really just study the Scripture for themselves and think about the practical application of what they are saying and advocating, they would find that many times, what they are saying and doing makes no practical sense and really amounts to spiritual foolishness! It is practically and spiritually impossible for everyone to be in the same season at the same time! Therefore to issue a mass prophetic word, is at best spiritual foolishness and at worst spiritual deception! In the Old Testament, the acid test of a true prophetic word and a true prophet was fulfillment. If what the prophet said came to pass, he was judged as a true prophet and the word was validated as being a word from the Lord. However, if what the prophet said did not come to pass, he was judged as a false prophet and the law declared that he should be stoned to death! Oh! We take the idea of ‘speaking for the Lord’ too lightly these days, but in biblical times it was serious and often deadly business! Then the preacher went on to say: “The Lord told me to tell you that He’s about to bring you out! Whatever you’ve been going through; it’s over now! You are about to walk into your victorious season!” Again; seriously? I know the preacher was trying to inspire the crowd and give them hope, but for many in that crowd, they were offered a ‘false hope!’

But all of this type of preaching and ‘prophi-lying’ completely obscures the primary purpose of blessings in the first place! When God blessed Abraham, the Bible says: “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing” (Genesis 12:1-2 KJV). Note two things: First of all, note that in order for the Lord to bless Abram, Abram had to meet certain conditions, he had to; (1) Get out from his native country and his father’s house and (2) Go to a land that God would show him. Abraham was blessed because he obeyed God! His belief or faith in God was proven by his obedience to God. As Romans 4:3, Galatians 3:6, and James 2:23 state: “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” But, how do we know Abraham believed God? Because Abraham obeyed God! Real biblical faith (saving faith) is not just a mere conviction of the heart and mind; real biblical saving faith is faith that involves practical obedience to the Word of God! Secondly, note that the Lord told Abraham that he (Abraham) would be a blessing! The Lord didn’t bless Abraham, just to bless Abraham, the Lord blessed Abraham for Abraham to be a blessing! In other words, the Lord didn’t bless Abraham just for Abraham! As Henry Blackaby, noted author of the Experiencing God and On Mission With God series, said: “When God blessed Abraham, He was on His way to the world!”

My issue with much of the modern-day preaching about blessings is that most of the preaching today seems to suggest the blessings of God are primarily for and about the person receiving the blessings; they are not! God blesses, primarily so that the person being blessed might be in a position to fulfill his or her God-given-God-ordained assignment! The blessings of God are not primarily for our comfort, but rather for our commission! They are not primarily for our consumption, but rather for the success of the mission! When we make the blessings all about us, we hi-jack and detour them from their God-ordained use and purpose! That is why the same people end up in the ‘blessing line’ over and over again! James put it this way, he asked: “What causes conflicts and contentions among you? Does not the tension on both sides originate from your lusts in conflict among your members? You want something badly, but you do not have it. You kill and covet, and still you are unable to get what you want. You fight and battle it out, and you do not have what you are after because you do not make a request. You ask, but do not receive, because you make your request from wrong motivation, that you might squander it on your pleasures.” (James. 4:1-3 McDonald Idiomatic Translation) That’s the point! Most of the requests for blessings today have nothing to do with the performance of the will of God! We don’t want to be blessed to do the will of God; we want to be blessed for our own comfort and enjoyment; which is the very reason we are not blessed like we want to be!

We have misunderstood the purpose of blessings! And as long as we insist on having blessings for our comfort instead of for doing the will of God, we will always be frustrated and going without; constantly going from pseudo-prophet to pseudo-prophet in a vain attempt to get a prophetic word to justify our selfish desires!

 

Dead Words and False Friends in the KJV

I recently purchased a book in my Logos 7 Bible Software by Mark L. Ward, Jr., entitled: Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible. In the book, Ward points out the fact that the King James Bible is the only 1611 release that is still on any best seller’s list! He also points out the fact that many common sayings, such as; “By the skin of his teeth” and “A labor of love” are taken directly from the King James Version of the Bible. But the highlight and meat of the book is Ward’s insightful handling of what he calls; “dead words” and “false friends” in the KJV.

Dead words are words found in the KJV that were in common use when the KJV was published in 1611, but are no longer in common use today. A good example is the word; “leasing” which is found in Psalm 4:2 and Psalm 5:6. The word has nothing to do with renting a domicile or a building, but rather denotes; the act of lying or falsehood. Another good example is “champaign” (pronounced exactly the same as the wine beverage), which was the term used for open level countryside in Deuteronomy 11:30. Ward list several more dead words, but readily points out the fact that dead words are really no problem for the modern English reader of the KJV because they are easy to recognize.

However, the greatest pitfall for the modern English reader of the KJV is undoubtedly the danger of failing to recognize “false friends.” Ward defines false friends as; “Words that are still in common use but have changed meaning in ways that modern readers are highly unlikely to recognize. Many words and phrases in the KJV are still in use but meant different things in seventeenth-century England—and yet what they now mean makes sufficient sense in context that most readers don’t notice the change. They don’t realize they need to look these words up.”[1] The example of false friends that Ward illustrates and analyzes in detail include the word; “halt” in story of the Prophet Elijah’s confrontation with Israel and the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18:21. In modern use, the term “halt” primarily means to “stop.” But that is not the usage that was prevalent in 1611, when the KJV was first published. Ward points out that although some modern versions such as the NASB (New American Standard Bible) and the NIV (New International Version) render the meaning of “hesitating” or “wavering,” the ESV (English Standard Version) gives the meaning the KJV translators had in mind with their use of the word. In 1611, the common use for the word “halt” was to limp or be crippled. This is the same meaning of the word in Luke 14:21 (KJV). Elijah was not asking the people how long were they going to stop, or even waver or hesitate between two opinions. He wanted to know how long would they limp or be crippled by their indecisiveness!

Ward cites several more false friends found in the KJV, such as “conversation.” Today, the word means dialogue or talk, but in 1611, the word was commonly used to denote all of one’s dealings with another, hence, manner of life or conduct. The Apostle encourage his readers to “love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous.” Today “pitiful” means to be pathetic or weak, but in 1611, the word meant to show pity and compassion for others.

As I was reading Ward’s book, I thought of a few “false friends” that he didn’t mention (of course Ward never claims to cite them all; his work is primarily to alert us of their existence), such as “faint” in Luke 18:1. Jesus said, “Men ought to always pray and not faint.” Today, the word primarily means to feel dizzy and lose consciousness, but in 1611, the primary meaning was to lose courage or to give up! What about when we read in the KJV that we are to be “careful” for nothing? But we tell one another everyday to be careful! Well, careful today means to take precautions and be mindful of potential problems or danger, but in 1611, it’s primary meaning was to be anxious and worried. So, when Jesus says to Martha in Luke 10:41, “Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things.” He was not complimenting her on her good housekeeping skills, he was telling her that she was anxious and filled with anxiety.

I was happy to know that “unicorns” really are real, because they are in the KJV Bible! But the unicorn in the KJV was not the mythological one-horned horse that we know, but rather was a wild ox! In fact, the unicorn in Psalm 22:21 apparently had more than one horn, because the author prays; “Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.”

Ward’s book is on my “suggested reading list” for a greater understanding of the Bible and the use of the English language for all preachers, teachers, and serious students of the Bible. If you don’t own Logos Bible Software, the book can also be purchased in Kindle and paperback formats from Amazon.com.

                1. Mark Ward, Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible. Edited by Elliot Ritzema, Lynnea Fraser, and Danielle Thevenaz. (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2018),  31.

Facebook Theology

When I woke up this morning and checked my Messenger app, I read this message entitled: “30 Second Prayer.” 

It said: “Lord, thank you for this Great Day! I love you and I need you to come into my heart to bless Me, my Family, my Home, my Work, my Friends and my special Loved Ones, Amen.” The message went on to say: “Please send this prayer to a minimum of 20 People. Something good will happen to you tomorrow at 10:30 am. Someone will call you be phone or will talk to you about something you were waiting to have. This is not a joke. Do not break this Prayer. Miracles do happen.”

Well, when I read this, I was immediately struck by the selfishness of the prayer! But then, we do live in a selfish and self-centered culture! We are so selfish and self-centered that we think Christianity and faith is all about what God can do for us! Now, I am going to say this now, so you can decide whether or not you want to continue reading the rest of this post: Much of what we read and see on Facebook and other social media platforms is not representative of real Christianity or real biblical faith! Much of what we see and read falls into the category of what can be called; Facebook theology or media theology.

Like the folk theology of yester-years, Facebook or media theology is theology that is constructed, not from a correct study and exegesis of the biblical text, but rather from a cursory reading of the Bible, that produces swallow and often non-sensical theological thoughts and concepts. Because we are living in the “Google Age,” most people don’t take the time to do in-depth Bible study for themselves, they just look up what someone else has said on the Internet. They think that just because it’s on the Internet; it must be true!

But let’s dissect and analyze this prayer to illustrate my point. “Lord, thank you for this Great Day!” So far, so good! We should all be thankful for any and every day we’re on top of the dirt and the dirt is not on top of us! And, every day is indeed a great day! But the prayer goes on: “I love you and I need you to come into my heart to bless Me . . . . .” Here’s where the real issues are: The prayer acknowledges a love for the Lord, but immediately moves to what ‘I need’ the Lord to do for me! No acknowledgement of the Lord’s majesty or sovereignty, it immediately goes to what ‘I need’ the Lord to do for me! But then, it is ‘a 30-second prayer!’ But the prayer asks the Lord to come into my heart to bless me, my family, my home, etc. Well, many people might be shocked to know that the primary purpose of the Lord coming into our lives is NOT TO BLESS US! Salvation or the Lord coming into our life IS THE BLESSING! Our primary quest should not be for what God can do for us; our primary quest should be for God Himself! In the Bible, we are not instructed to seek His blessings; we are instructed to seek Him! The reason for that is because when you have Him; you already have all the blessings you will ever need! The Apostle Paul writes to the Christians in Ephesians 1:3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,” (ESV) Note the tense; he didn’t say ‘will bless,’ he said ‘has blessed.’ If you are in Christ, you don’t need to be blessed, because you’ve already been blessed! Now, I hear you! You’re saying, “That’s sounds good, but Paul was talking about ‘spiritual blessings in the heavenly places’ but I need material blessings in the earthly realm!” Well, you have to understand that everything material is produced from or has it’s genesis in the spiritual! It is the spiritual that produces the physical. If it is not produced by the spiritual in the spiritual realm, it will not be manifested in the material or physical realm! The Apostle Peter wrote to his readers in 2 Peter 1:2-3: “May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.” (ESV) Again, note the tense: “His divine power ‘has granted’ to us ‘all things’ that pertain to life and godliness. . . .” My point is this, if we are in Christ: Every blessing we need; we already have! We don’t need to pray for God to bless us because God already has blessed us with every blessing God has to give! God cannot give us what God has already given to us! No! We don’t need to be praying for God to give us more blessings; we need to be praying for the wisdom and understanding to manifest the blessings we already have!

Now what really got me was the message said: “Please send this prayer to a minimum of 20 people. Something good will happen to you tomorrow at 10:30 am.. . .” I understand the Old Testament Prophet told Naaman to wash in the Jordan River seven times, but I think much of what is happening today is not Divine instructions but rather superstitious bent toward on luck or chance! In this case, the prayer is not enough, I must send it to 20 people in order for something good to happen at 10:30 am! Well, when you think about it; if you wake up in the morning, something good has already happened, long before 10:30 am, unless you are a late sleeper!

But do we actually think we can be blessed and be right with God by simply saying a prayer and sending it to 20 people on Facebook Messenger? Seriously? I’ve even received chain messages that imply if I break the chain and don’t pass it on; I won’t be blessed and I don’t love the Lord! Seriously? I tell the members of the church I serve: “Your best witness for Jesus at your work-place is not sending out Facebook chain prayers or messages when you should be working! Your best witness for Jesus on your job is to do your job with a spirit of excellence!

Facebook and other social media platforms can be excellent tools for spreading the Gospel, but we should make sure we are indeed spreading Gospel and not religious folk-superstition! The Apostle John said in his context: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1 ESV) If he were writing today in our contemporary culture and context, he would write: “My friends, do no believe, pass on, or repost every Facebook or Messenger posts you receive. Read and study your Bible to make sure the message is biblically sound and theologically correct first! For there are many who are posting today who have not read or studied the Bible and are not of God!”

How I Use Biblical Software To Prepare Sermons

I have been preaching for nearly forty (40) years and my research and study has been tremendously accelerated by the use of biblical software for almost half of those years. There is much debate today among preachers and scholars as to which is better; electronic books or paper books? With me, it all depends. Some of my resources are in both forms. Sometimes I like to sit and read with a physical book in my hands and then, at other times, I like to sit in front of my computer to do my studies, sermon preparation, and research. But I want to share in this post, how I use biblical software in the study, research and preparation of sermons and/or biblical lessons. I have tried several across the years, but the three that are my bread and butter tools are: Logos 7, BibleWorks 10, and WordSearch 11.

After much prayer and meditation, that usually begins on Monday evening, by noon Tuesday, I usually have made a general choice (unless I am in the middle of preaching a series) of what I am going to preach the coming Sunday. After selecting a biblical text, I read the text several times in several different (I read the text at least 3 to 4 times in at least five, sometimes as many as eight different versions) English versions of the Bible. I do this using the BibleWorks software. BibleWorks is excellent for doing this because the program allows you to arrange the various versions side-by-side or vertically to quickly note differences in the versions. There is also a tool within BibleWorks that will color-highlight the differences for you. I do this to get a general feel of the flow and meaning of the text. After completing this step, I then do the same thing; comparing the various Hebrew (if it is an Old Testament text) and Greek (if it is a New Testament text) Bibles that are available in BibleWorks. By the way, in BibleWorks, there are over 200 Bible translations in 40 different languages, over 50 original languages and morphology databases, with dozens of lexical-grammatical references, plus a wealth of practical reference works, all available in the standard package at no additional costs! It is during the comparison-analysis of the original languages that I also conduct my word-studies. My first goal is to establish the integrity of the text. I especially want to do this if it is a familiar text because I want to find out, as best I can, what the original author actually said and/or meant, as opposed to the popular or common ideas of what the author said and meant. The only way to do this is by a thorough investigation of the text in the original languages. Now, if you have not studied the original languages, BibleWorks will greatly aid in overcoming that deficiency because, even as you look at the various English versions, you can hover your mouse over the English words and BibleWorks will display the corresponding Greek and Hebrew words and meanings in pop-ups and in the analysis window of the software. This information is available in an instant! It would take at least five to ten minutes per word to do this manually with paper books! Now, I use BibleWorks, primarily to establish the integrity of the text and for my initial word-study analysis, usually this process takes about a day of study or about 3-5 hours. As a pastor, husband, and part-time student, there are also many other demands upon my time. But usually the first day of study is devoted to establishing the integrity of the text; using BibleWorks as my primary tool.

The next phrase of study is where the Logos Bible Software comes into play! Although BibleWorks has an extensive selection of Bibles in English and in the original languages, there are still some that are available in Logos that are not currently available in BibleWorks, such as the Amplified Bible, for example. So when I first open Logos, I continue some of the work that I started with BibleWorks. This also includes consulting various lexicons and biblical dictionaries I have that are in Logos, but not in BibleWorks. In some cases, it is not a matter of these resources being available in one software and not in the other. In some cases, I purchased resources in the Logos format, rather than in BibleWorks because of how Logos cross-indexes and integrates the various resources. Plus, I’ve owned Logos longer than BibleWorks, so there are some things I know how to do in Logos that I have not learned how to do in BibleWorks. At any rate, I type the passage in and click go and within a matter of seconds, Logos pulls up every Bible, lexicon, dictionary, commentary and any other resources from my Logos library of resources that I have purchased across the years! As of the writing of this post, there are over 3,000 resources in my Logos library, representing an investment of over $13,000 in 15 years! The first tool I use with Logos is the Exegetical Guide. Type in the text and within a matter of seconds, every Bible (English, Hebrew, and Greek), lexical resource and Bible dictionary in my library is displayed; already cued or located at the text and the words of the text! Logos brings up in seconds what would take hours to do in paper books!

By the time, I’ve finished establishing the integrity of the text, using BibleWorks and Logos, it is usually late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning. The plan is to spend study time Thursday consulting what various commentaries say about the text. Now, by this time, I already have a pretty good feel of the author’s original intent and where I want to go with the text, but I consult commentaries to compare my findings with what other biblical scholars say about the text and also to gain additional insights. I was taught, and I strongly agree, that preachers should never consult the commentaries before the completion of their own personal work of research and study. Going to the commentaries first will short-circuit the development of your own investigative and research skills and severely compromise what the Holy Spirit wants to say to and through you to your listeners. But even in dealing with the commentaries, don’t just read the ones you agree with or the only the ones of your own personal theological slant. Read commentaries that challenge and as well as confirm your findings, thoughts and views.

Most of the commentaries I own are found in my Logos software (nearly 1,500 volumes). To access my commentaries in Logos, I click on the Passage Guide tool, type in the text, click go, and every Bible, commentary and any other resource in my library that deals with the text instantly opens to my text and/or pulls up pertinent information about the text; all in a matter of seconds! However, some of my favorite commentaries are only in my WordSearch software, such as The Preacher’s Sermon and Outline Bible, Barnes Notes of the Old and New Testaments and a few others. There are also times when I consult commentaries that I only have in book-form. As a side note, there are some books that I own in book-form that I have also purchased in various software platforms. Some of these, I purchased years before I became computer savvy and once they became available in software form, I purchased them again because of the ease of use and the speed of research the software provides.

Well, Friday is the day I usually write the sermon! Yes, I am (as my Daddy used to describe preachers who use manuscripts) a paper boy! I have detailed that process in a prior post (From the Mind to the Manuscript: 5/2/13) But I just wanted to share with you a little bit about what biblical software platforms I use and how I use  them. If you are serious about biblical studies; whether you are a preacher, teacher, or just someone who loves the Bible, I strongly suggest you look into investing into a biblical software program. Of the three I use, each one has strengths and weaknesses. There are some tasks I do in one that can’t be done (I have not learn how to do) in the others and there are some task that could be done by any one of them with equal ease. But as I use them, they don’t compete with one another; they complement one another. You can check them out at their various websites for pricing and more exact details. You can find out more about Logos Bible Software at: www.logos.com BibleWorks at www.bibleworks.com and WordSearch at www.wordsearchbible.com.

Jesus: The Only Way?

Jesus made a statement, recorded in John 14:6, that puts all who would seek to sincerely believe in and follow him in a precarious position with the world! He said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 ESV) Now sometimes, when we read the Bible, the various other translations have variations of the text that leave room for different interpretations, but that is not the case with this text! Sometimes, a difference, such as a definite article used in one language as opposed to an indefinite article used in another language might leave room for a slightly different interpretation, but that is not the case with this text! With this verse; all of the English translations and versions agree with the various Greek texts, as to what Jesus said! He didn’t stutter! Jesus said he was, not ‘a’ way, but ‘the’ way! Jesus said he was, not ‘a’ truth, but ‘the’ truth! Jesus said, he was not ‘a’ life, but ‘the’ life! Jesus said, the only way to come to the Father (God) was through him! Oh! What a bold and audacious statement! Now, there are only three legitimate responses to what Jesus said! There are only three ways we can process what he said and only three conclusions we can reach:

We could conclude that Jesus was mentally unstable and that he was a mad-man! Now before you label me as a heretic for even raising such a possibility; it has been raised before! In the Gospel account recorded by Mark, we read: “Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, ‘He is out of his mind.’ And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebul,’ and ‘by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” (Mark 3:20-22 ESV) At one point, his own family thought he was crazy and his religious opponents accused him of being possessed by the devil! So this idea of Jesus being insane is not a new concept! Now, if Jesus was indeed mad, then we have nothing but the rambling statements of a deranged lunatic and we can dismiss all of his statements as ludicrous! But, there was too much that he said and did that made sense for us to dismiss him as crazy because of the things he said and did that did not make sense to us!

The second possibility is that Jesus was a deceiver or an imposter! This was the position of the scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the established religious order of his day. In the Gospel recorded by Matthew, we read: “Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, Saying, ‘Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.’ Pilate said unto them, ‘Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can.’ So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.” (Matthew 27:62-66 KJV) Now, the ironic thing about that whole situation is that the very ones who accused Jesus of being a deceiver were, in fact, deceivers themselves! The very guards they posted at the grave, witnessed the resurrection, but they paid those guards to lie about what they had seen! The fact that they paid the guard to lie is a proof of the resurrection because if the resurrection didn’t happen, why lie about an event that didn’t happen? (See Matthew 28:11-15) From all accounts, Jesus was certainly not a deceiver! In fact, he was so upfront and honest that he discouraged people from following him. (See Matthew 8:19-22; Luke 9:57-62) He told potential followers upfront the hardships they would have to endure and the price they would have to be prepared to pay to follow him! He wasn’t like so many of us, who tell all of the benefits first and reluctantly share the drawbacks, only if asked!

Now, before I share the third possibility, let’s look at some of the implications if Jesus was indeed a lunatic or a fraud and if Jesus is not ‘the,’ but merely ‘a way,’ ‘a truth,’ and ‘a life.’ Let’s look at the implications if there are indeed ‘other ways’ to the Father, other than Jesus. If that was indeed the case, then, Jesus came and died for nothing! And if that were true and Jesus came and died for nothing, then he was indeed a lunatic! It makes no earthly or heavenly sense to go through all that Jesus went through if there was another way! And surely, if there was another way, he would have taken it! He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39 ESV) Jesus was asking the Father, if it were possible, to provide another way so that it would not be necessary for him to go to the cross! Do you see that? Those who reject the claims of Jesus say there are other ways; well in the garden, Jesus wished there were other ways also! So don’t you think if there were other ways, he would have taken them? He would have been a fool and a lunatic if he didn’t! But, there were no other ways; that’s why he went to the cross, to secure the only way! So, when people say or suggest there are other ways, they are in a sense, saying that Jesus was a lunatic, because it would have been the epitome of stupidity and insanity to go to the cross if there were other options! So, if there were and are other ways; Jesus was crazy and those who follow him are crazy also!

But, what if he was right? What if, he indeed paid the price and God indeed validated his claim by raising him from the dead? If that is the case (and I believe with everything within me that it is; in fact, I am staking my eternal destiny on it!), then that means we owe him our gratitude, loyalty and ultimate allegiance! People today do not want to accept the fact of Hell and punishment because they say that God is a God of love. Well, God is a God of love! That’s why he sent Jesus! John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (ESV) God is also a Holy God and a God of justice, that is also why God sent Jesus! The Apostle Paul declared: “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5 KJV) John, the Elder, declared: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation [the atoning sacrifice] for our sins.” (1 John 4:10 KJV)

Now, there may be some who might read this and dismiss my claims because I use the Bible as my source. They do not think an ancient book of doctrines is valid in a modern world. What an absurd proposition! The Bible is even more valid than today’s newspaper! Besides that, aren’t we, in America, governed by a set of laws taken from an old document called the Constitution? And by the way, most of the precepts and ideas within the Constitution came directly from the Bible, as did most of the legal codes for all nations!

Jesus claimed exclusivity! “No one comes to the Father except by me!” He said! So, the ones who follow him are not being arrogant, intolerant, or trying to be more than others when they make that claim; they are just merely repeating what Jesus said and claimed! And just as Jesus was rejected and ridiculed then, his sincere followers will be rejected and ridiculed now! So, thanks Jesus! Thank you for the pickle you’ve put us in! But, those of us who sincerely believe in you and love you are more than willing to go to you outside the camp (of political correctness and social esteem) and bear the abuse that you endured! (Hebrews 13:13)

Being Blessed Is Not Enough!

It seems as if the main goal or the over-riding obsession in many Christian circles today is just to get blessings or to be blessed! Now, aside from our fundamental failure to understand that God has already blessed us with every blessing we will ever need (See Ephesians 1:3 and 2 Peter 1:3. Our real need is not for blessings or to be blessed more, but rather, to know how to access and appropriate the blessings we already have!), this emphasis on blessings also indicates another fault in our spiritual understanding. Let me show you what I’m talking about!

In God’s economy, blessings are not, and were never meant to be, the end, but rather, the means to the end! In other words, blessings were never meant to be our destination, but rather the means, tools, or vehicles used to aid and assist us in reaching our destination. When we are so captivated and fixated on blessings, we’re just like a person, so in love with their new car that they just drive around, without ever going anywhere! It is a ridiculous situation for a person to have a vehicle, only to use it to drive around, not understanding that the real purpose of the vehicle is not just to be driven around, but to be actually used to get from point A to point B! In like manner, many Christians are trying to exercise their faith to obtain blessings to just ‘drive around’ with no clue that the real purpose of blessings is transportation and facilitation!

So, when we make blessings or being blessed the main goal or objective, we err on two points! We err by trying to get what we already have! And then, we err by making the means the end instead of understanding the means’ purpose is to help us get to the end! Being blessed or having blessings without understanding their purpose to assist in reaching the destination is not enough! God created and blessed us for much more than that!

In Genesis 1:28, we read: “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (ESV) Notice the wording of the text! God didn’t just bless them to bless them; God blessed them so that they would be in position to do something! God blessed them in order for them to fulfill their purpose, which was to be fruitful (productive), multiply, fill and subdue the earth, to have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and over every living thing on the earth! They were blessed for the purpose of fulfilling their assignment! That’s the principle! God doesn’t bless just to bless; God blesses to enable, to empower, to facilitate the execution of His will! The mandate has not changed! The same order given to Adam and Eve has been passed down to us! We are not blessed just to be blessed, we are blessed in order to have and exercise dominion!

Now, what does it mean to have and exercise dominion? What was God doing in Genesis 1:28? God was commissioning Adam and Eve as His proxy rulers on earth! God blessed Adam and Eve so that they might rule the earth in His stead! The emergence of sin DID NOT negate or cancel the Dominion Mandate! In fact, that’s why Jesus came! Jesus came to deal with sin so that, through him, man’s capacity to fulfill the Dominion Mandate might be restored!

Oh! We are so limited and little in our thinking! While we are running around making what we already have the focus of our faith, God has a much grander idea for us! We just want to be blessed, but God wants us to be ‘god’ on earth! God wants us to be Him on earth! (I realized I am treading on what some might perceive to be slippery theological turf here. That’s why I used a little ‘g.’ We are not gods in the sense that we are deity, but rather in the sense that our purpose is to function as God’s representatives upon the earth.) Hence, our main objective should not be for God to bless us just so we might be healthy, wealthy, and wise, but rather our main objective should be that God might execute His will upon the earth through us! I heard a song, not too long ago, and the singer was pleading: “Lord, whatever You’re doing in this season, don’t do it without me!” Now, I understood what the author of the song was saying; he, himself, personally wanted to be a partner with God in whatever God is going to do. But, whatever God is going to do in this season will only be done through us! God only rained down meat and bread from Heaven one time! His normal means of feeding us when we’re hungry is to use our neighbor to do it!

The bottom line is that God’s purpose in blessing us is so that we might be a blessing-hose, not a blessing-pool! God’s intent is not for blessings just to flow ‘to’ us; but rather for blessings to flow ‘through’ us! Blessings are meant to be tools to be used, not just items to be consumed! So, if your main goal and pre-occupation is just to be blessed; being blessed is not enough, God wants so much more than that for you! His purpose in blessing you is that you might be (represent) Him wherever you are!