But My God Shall Suppy All Your Need?

Most Bible readers would readily recognize the subject of this post as being the beginning of Philippians 4:19. The Apostle Paul wrote the church at Philippi a ‘thank-you’ letter in which he told them: “But my God shall supply all of your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (KJV) Often in our day and time, this verse is incorrectly used as a ‘blanket guarantee’ that God will supply all of our needs! But, was that really Paul’s intended meaning when he made the statement?

There are three rules we should carefully follow when we read the Bible. The first rule is context! The second rule is context! And, the third rule is context! So, let’s look at the context of this familiar passage. The first thing we should notice is that the verse begins with a conjunction! From the Greek text, this conjunction can be translated as “but” or “and.” The KJV says “but,” however, many of the modern translations render the conjunction as “and.” But either one is acceptable because one makes no difference in the intended meaning as opposed to the other. But, I wanted to call attention to the conjunction, not so much to highlight the different translations, but rather to remind us of the purpose and function of a conjunction. A conjunction, by definition, is a word that joins together sentences, clauses, phrases, or words. Since the conjunction is at the beginning of verse 19, in order to correctly interpret the verse, we must look at what proceeds it. In order to ascertain Paul’s complete meaning, we need to go back to at least verse 15.

The gist of the conversation is that Paul is commending them for being the only church to supply him with financial assistance since the beginning of the gospel when he left Macedonia. Even when he was in Thessalonica, they rendered assistance to him more than once! Paul told them that, although their giving was much appreciated, he had learned to get along with whatever he had! That was the rationale behind the other statement we often misapply from this chapter, where Paul said in verse 13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me!” The ‘all things’ Paul was referring to was; living with little and living with plenty! He could do all things because he had learned the secret of being content in whatever state he was in! He was telling them: “I’ve learned how to live in poverty and I’ve learned how to live in abundance! So, even if I had received nothing from you, I would have been alright, but nevertheless, I appreciate your gifts!” And because they gave to him, Paul told them; “But (and) my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by (in) Christ Jesus!” Paul was telling them; “Because you took care of my needs, my God will take care of your needs!” In its original context, this wasn’t a unilateral promise; it was a statement of reciprocal blessing! “God will do for you, because you did for me! 

There is a similar principle stated in Matthew 6:33, where Jesus says: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (ESV) Jesus didn’t say that all these things (food, drink, clothing, things needful for life) would be added automatically! No! He said all these things would come as a matter of course as one seeks first to find and submit to the authority of God in their lives!

In both cases, the blessings were and are conditional! The principle is this: God will take care of us and our business when and as we first take care of His business and meet His requirements!  Context is everything! But, when we take scripture out of context, we erroneously make God responsible for commitments God never actually made! And when God doesn’t come through on the promises we misappropriate because we took scripture out of context, it damages our faith and/or the faith of others! So, before we apply and rely on anything anybody said in the Bible, we should make sure of the context! We should make sure the promise is applicable to us and that we met the conditions of the promise!

Love is NOT God!

God is Love2In the aftermath of the recent SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage, one of the slogans becoming popular is the phrase: “Love wins!” The argument behind the slogan is that, since God is love, then God approves and affirms the Supreme Court decision because God who is love, would not disapprove of two people of the same sex marrying one another because they love one another. After all, the God who is love surely approves of any and all loving relationships!

Well, let’s look at that argument for a minute! First of all, it seems to me that the proponents of this argument have made fundamental flaws in theology, biblical exegesis, and logic. It is true: God is love! 1 John 4:8 says: “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (ESV) Verse 16 of the same book and chapter says: “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (ESV) The text does say: “God is love!” But the text does not say that love is God! God is love; but love is NOT God! I think the proponents of the LTBG lifestyle have made a fundamental error in equating their definition of “love” with “God!” If love is God in the sense of that love coming from God and being the controlling force and motivation for all decisions and actions, that would be fine. But the “love” the LGBT community advocates is not the same love found in the biblical text!

There are four main words used for “love” in the biblical text. In the Old Testament, which was originally written mainly in Hebrew, the main words for “love” are the Hebrew words: “ahab” (pronounced; ‘aw-hab or ‘aw-habe) and “checed” (pronounced: kheh’-sed) ‘Ahab refers to human love for another, including family and sexual. In some cases it is used to refer to man’s love for God and God’s love for man. The Hebrew word; “checed” (pronounced: kheh’-sed) in the King James Version, is translated as: “lovingkindness.” This word refers primarily to the goodness, kindness, and mercy of God. In the New Testament, which was originally written primarily in Greek, the two main words are “phileo” and “agape.” Phileo, refers primarily to brotherly love. It is from that word that the City of Brotherly Love: Philadelphia gets its name. Agape refers to godly love. This is the love that used in the text that says “God is love.” Agape is unconditional love, love that loves in spite of, not because of! Agape is the love that God has for humanity and the love that humanity should have for God and all fellow human beings! However, there is no place in the New Testament where “agape” used to denote sexual love or the love that is subject of the discussion at hand! So, the argument that God must approve “gay-love” or “lesbian-love” because God is love is not theologically, exegetically or logically valid!

God is love, but the God, who is love does not approve of all loving relationships; not even all loving heterosexual relationships! God does not approve of any loving heterosexual relationships outside the bounds of marriage! Those relationships constitute adultery, which is sin! So if everyone was to subscribe the logic of the “love wins” argument, then everyone could do whatever they wanted with whoever they wanted to do it with, with no guilt in the name of love!

But there is no such thing as “absolute freedom!” There are rules and boundaries put in place by the Creator, that all are subject to! When we ascribe to the notion that love is God, we then find ourselves standing on uncertain ground! What is the love that is being talked about? Is it the emotional feeling experienced toward another person? Is it the sexual tension experienced between two people? If that is the love that justifies the Supreme Court decision, then there’s not really much to build a foundation upon! That “love” is conditional and changing! People fall in and out of love every day! No! Love is not God, and we are not justified to do whatever “feels” right in the name of love! To live in such a manner, we indeed, make a god out of love and as a result, fail to experience real love or know the true God!

A False Theology of Death

tombstonesWe live in an increasingly violent society and in view of the constant senseless tragic premature deaths that occur in our society on a daily basis, many people are formulating a false theology of death as a coping mechanism. It is just part of the human make-up to “make sense” of what are otherwise “senseless situations.”
Now, the reason why people are formulating a false theology of death is because of an ignorance of what the Bible says about the subject. But, the surprising thing to me is that while one would expect people who are non-religious and/or who don’t attend church to be ignorant on the subject, much of the false theology of death being promoted is coming from “church people,” even people who are preachers, pastors, and church leaders!
The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica these words: He said, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep. . .” (1Th 4:13 KJV) In that particular text, Paul used the word “asleep” as a euphemism for death. There were people in the church at that time who were anxiously awaiting the coming of the Lord and they wanted to know what would happen to those who had died prior to the Lord’s coming. They were apprehensive because they feared those who had died would miss the Lord’s coming. Therefore, Paul wrote this section of the text to allay their fears. He didn’t want them to be uninformed or in the dark about what would happen to those who had died when Jesus came back. Yet, over two thousand years later, people are still largely ignorant and uninformed concerning those who have died! Not so much about what would happen to them when Jesus comes back, but rather, about what happens to them when they die.
In promoting a correct theology of death, I think it would be beneficial to cite some of the false beliefs that are prevalent. A few months ago, I was shocked to witness an example of a false theology of death in a church resolution! I was sitting in the funeral service of a dear elderly mother who had spent years serving in the church. All was going well, until they read a resolution to the family by the church. After many “whereas” and “therefore” (I don’t know how to write these in plural form!), the clerk read this: “Whereas on (date) God looked down from Heaven and plucked a gentle flower named (the deceased) from His earthly garden to array His Heavenly bouquet. . .” To be honest with you, I almost fell out of my seat! I mean . . . seriously? I wouldn’t have been so shocked if someone from the congregation had said such nonsense in their remarks, but this was an official church resolution! Now you might be wondering what’s so terrible about the statement. But think about it! The statement implies that God “killed” this dear mother, just to beautify Heaven! I know we say things, trying to comfort the family in their time of grief, but statements like this is a gross misrepresentation of what the Bible says about death and the character of God!
First of all, GOD DOES NOT SPONSOR DEATH! Jesus said in John 10:10, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (KJV) God is not in the business of killing people! It’s God will that we live long, prosperous and productive lives! And if we studied Genesis carefully, we would discover that death was not part of God’s original intent. It was God’s original intention for man to live forever upon the earth! Death came about as a result of sin.
I encountered another case of a false theology of death while attending a visitation for a young man who had been murdered in a shooting. I was walking out the door of the funeral home when I overheard and elderly woman trying to comfort a grieving young person. The woman said to the young man: “Well you know, it was just God’s will and God just called him home!” I almost stopped in my tracks! Seriously? It is NEVER GOD’S WILL for a 24-year-old to be shot and murdered! God doesn’t use murder to “call people home!” It is more beneficial to God and to us to live a long life because we are more useful to God on earth than we are in Heaven! Where are we getting all of this foolishness? We need to learn to call it for what it is! There is a story in Matthew about a man who planted a field, but when it was time for the harvest, the workers discovered tares among the wheat. They asked their master: “Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them: An enemy hath done this. . .” (Mat 13:27-28 KJV) People attribute all deaths as being the work of God, but the truth of the matter is: The enemy hath done this!” And the enemy doesn’t want people to know what he is doing because he knows it is really difficult to truly praise a God that you think is responsible for your grief!
I’ve got one more false theology I want to address and then I will be through with my rant (for now). For some reason, many think that death is a promotion to angelic status. But the truth of the matter is this: Angel will always be angels and people will always be people! People do not change into angels and they do not get wings when they die, even if they were good people! I know we sing the song about two wings to veil our face, two wings to veil our feet, and two wings to fly away, but nowhere in the Bible is it even implied that we will get wings! The song has good rhythm but it has bad theology!
Well, I’ve shared the false theology of death; now let me leave you with the true theology of death! The true theology is this: We live in a fallen world! Because of that, life is often cruel and unfair! Many times the good die young, while people who raise hell seem to live forever! It’s not fair for the life of a young person with potential, dreams and goals to be violently taken by someone who only lives for themselves! It’s not fair for a father or mother of a young family to be killed in an automobile accident while the person who caused the accident, whose license had already been suspended for driving drunk, walks away! No! Life’s not fair, but don’t blame life’s unfairness on God: The enemy has done this! But, in the end, it will all work out! The Apostle Paul said: “Our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” (2 Cor. 4:17 NLT) Paul also said that for the believer, to be absent from the body (dead) is to be present with the Lord! And the Bible says that in His presence is the fullness of joy! The Apostle John received a revelation on the Isle of Patmos, listen to what he saw: “And I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.” (Rev 21:2-5 KJV)

Until then, be not over-whelmed with the worries and tragedies of this present world! Use them to motivate you to be all that God has called you to be in the short time that life allows! If and when tragedy strikes in your life or in the lives of those around you, know and offer the hope that is available in Christ: “Jesus said unto her, (Martha, the sister of Lazarus) I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26 KJV)

Who’s “God” Anyway?

who is godWhen I contrast much of the preaching that I am hearing these days with what I read in the Bible, that is the question that pops until my mind! The King James Version of Psalms 100:3 says: “Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” Do you see that? It is he that made us, not the other way around! Now I know that there are those that advocate that the concept of God is a human construct, but that seems highly unlikely! It is obvious to me that the God of the Bible is not the invention of humanity because the God of the Bible judges the sin of humanity. It’s just basic human nature to take the path of least resistance, therefore if the God of the Bible was a human construct, that God would not judge humanity’s sin.

But it is because the God of the Bible is a holy and just God that humanity has a problem with God! Man by nature, does not aspire to live up to the standards of God, but rather man attempts to lower God to the standards of man! You can call me homophobic, archaic, or insensitive if you want to, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Bible is very clear on God’s view of homosexuality. Not only is the Bible clear that homosexuality is sin, but it is also clear that other sexual activities, such as adultery, fornication, bestiality, and pornography are also sins! There is much controversy these days about homosexuality, but the truth of the matter is that the adulterer or the fornicator who points a condemning finger at the homosexual is a case of the kettle calling the pot black! In fact, the Bible says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. When we read that text in the Greek, we discover that the Greek word that is translated as “fallen short” is parsed as a present passive plural verb! So that text, more properly says that all have sinned and “are falling short” of the glory (God’s idea standard) of God! So the truth of the matter is none of us has the right to point a finger at anybody else with the attitude of being more right than anyone else! However, the fact we don’t have the right to condemn one another does not negate the fact that we do have the right and the responsibility to call sin, sin!

Now this post was not written to discuss the rights and wrongs of sexual life-styles. I merely introduced that topic to illustrate the point that in many cases, man wants to be his own God! He wants to set standards to appease his depraved mind! He does not want to change to please God, but rather he wants to remain as he is and change God to please himself!

But the fact remains: God is God! It is God that made us, we didn’t make God! And no matter how we twist and manipulate scripture, it will not negate that fundamental fact! We can call wrong right as long as we want to, but calling wrong right doesn’t make wrong right!

Who’s God anyway? In spite of man’s attempts to usurp the authority of God, God is still God! If you don’t believe God is still God, take that same alarm clock that you think woke you up this morning down to your local funeral home and see if it will wake up anybody there! Who is God? The God of the Bible is still God and always will be!

God Doesn’t Come To Take Sides: God Comes To Take Over!

God in ChargeThere is an interesting meeting that happened in the Bible (Joshua 5:13-15) on the evening prior to the Battle of Jericho. The Bible says that Joshua was out on a recognizance mission when he encountered a man with a drawn sword in his hand. The man looked pretty impressive to Joshua and so Joshua figured that whichever side this warrior was fighting on, that side was bound to win the battle! So Joshua asked the man: “Are you for us, or are you for our enemies?” The man replied, “Nay, but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come!” In other words, the man said to Joshua; “I didn’t come to takes sides; I came to take over!”

Well, in light of that, I am amazed today by the number of people and groups who strongly advocate that God is on their side. I even read of a preacher who made a prophecy prior to this year’s Super Bowl that God had revealed to him that the Denver Broncos would win the game. As I read about this, I begin to reflect upon how trivial we have made the deep things of God. But God cannot be manipulated by men! God is not a Republican,neither is God a Democrat. God is not a liberal nor is God a conservative! God is not even an American and God is certainly not a Denver Bronco or a Seattle Seahawk! When we seek to align God with our various groups, ideologies, political parties, philosophies or even sports teams, we fail to recognize a fundamental fact about God. God is sovereign! God is the “Holy Other!” God is above and beyond all of our clichés and classifications!

The real question today, no matter what political or ideological view we might hold, is not whether or not God is on our side. The real question is whether or not we are on God’s side! We must always remember that God doesn’t come to take sides in our human affairs; God comes to take over! God is not in the business of pushing or even helping us to push our various agendas because God has an agenda of his own! God’s agenda is the Kingdom of God: The rule and reign of God!  Everything God does is for His glory and His Kingdom! Remember!  God doesn’t come to takes sides; God comes to take over!