December 15, 2014

Dispensation 6: A Change of Heart

Posted in Salvation, Terminology, The Church, The Dispensations tagged , , , , , at 11:48 AM by E. M.

Changed_heartThe dispensations are God’s contrastive way of proving that His plan for man is right, by allowing mankind the opportunity to choose to be Godly on their own. In the first three dispensations God allow men fairly free reign during periods of complete innocence, vast knowledge, and full cooperation. Each time mankind chose themselves over God by thinking comparatively. Furthermore, each dispensation resulted in men becoming more evil!

In the 4th and 5th Dispensations, God provided progressive guidance though earthly representatives and by giving them His Law, culminating in the advent of a divine Redeemer. Again men choose themselves over God by rejecting (and ignoring) the guidance.

Since in the previous two dispensations God gave men guidance through external sources, the next just and logical step would be to make that guidance intimate and internal.

The 6th Dispensation asks the question: What if God’s presence was housed inside us, and gave us day by day guidance on how to be like Him? Would we choose God over ourselves?

Its an intriguing proposition, and its one of the many ways that this dispensation is so special and unique. But how would this work? How does God presence get “inside” us (and how much space does He need?)

It all starts with Salvation.

When a person’s “gets saved”, it’s not a one-way proposition. When the decision to accept the gift of redemption is made, God doesn’t just give a wink and a thumbs-up. God begins the work of actively changing your entire life!

Salvation makes us a new creation. We are given a new heart by God, and His Law is written on our hearts. Why our hearts and not our brain/mind? Because the heart is where your integrity comes from.

Like the brain, the physical heart has neural connections that make it function like a “mini-brain”. Your heart has its own independent nervous system consisting of over 30,000 neurons.. Like the unconscious brain, the heart is part of the body that can respond and make decisions based on intuition and feelings.

But its effects on us are more primal and less influenced by the things that can affect our conscious minds. The heart is much more binary. You can fake all kinds of things with your conscious brain, but you can’t fool the heart. Whatever is true about you flows from your heart. That’s why in salvation, God is much more concerned with what you believe in your heart than in your mind.

The problem is that before salvation, man’s heart is evil! It reflects the fact that man is not always and completely right and just. That heart rejects the Godly thought process (contrastive thinking and growth) and embraces destructive thoughts (comparative thinking and comfort). Fortunately man has free will and can choose to act outside of his nature.

Accepting redemption is an act of free will. But even with that acceptance God knows that is would be a losing battle to try to influence through our old heart, and He certainly can’t dwell there – so He gives us a new one!

Of course I’m not speaking of replacing the physical organ (becoming a Christina does not require major surgery), I’m speaking of the spiritual housing of the heart – the part that affects and is affected by our thought process. This new heart can hear from God and can be influenced by God

This is the definition of grace – the Divine influence on the heart and its reflection in life.

The 6th Dispensation is unique in that it is a direct conduit to the meaning of life. How is it connected to the meaning of life? Remember, in order to be with God, we have to be like God. The only “man” who has ever managed to be like God is Jesus during his earthly incarnation. How? He lived by grace! He ONLY did what God told him to do. This is how he was fully man and fully God. The sixth dispensation gives us all that same opportunity!

The Problem is we get all kinds of inner notions and urges influencing us constantly. Sure we get a new heart through salvation, but the rest of us (specifically our minds) are still under Adam’s curse. We are still not always and completely right and just in our nature. So how do you know if it’s God’s influence that we are hearing?

Unsaved man is influenced by three sources, the “World”, the “Flesh”, and the “Devil. Two are external (world and devil) the other is internal (flesh). All three sources have two things in common – they all oppose God, and they are all “loud” (they all influence us aggressively).

The “voice” of the World focuses you on the pursuit of external things to replace God in your life. The World steers you toward comfort, self-justification, religion, and conformity. The World is the system that wants to deny uniqueness and get you to embrace a Godless Eden.

The Flesh is the enemy within. Is our human nature that is the polar opposite of Godly thinking. The Flesh wants us to be comparative, which is the source of pride, fear, and evil.

The Devil is the demonic influence (“devil” is from the Greek “diabolos” which means “one who hurls thing at you”  In the Biblical context, it is translated as “Accuser”). The Devil’s goal is destruction in long term. The devil works in the opposite manner to God. The Devil is constantly hurling seductive/destructive thoughts at your Flesh (as opposed to the heart), which you must make the moment-by-moment choice to accept or reject. Whenever an evil, destructive thought enters you mind and you think “where did that come from?” It was probably the Devil.

But, when you get saved a fourth influence is added – the Holy Spirit, who Jesus promised would live in the hearts of believers! The influence of the Spirit is focused on growth and faith, through contrastive thinking. The voice of the Spirit is the most difficult to hear. The Spirit speaks in a quiet, still, small voice. If the world pulls at you, the flesh yells at you, and the devil jabs you; the Spirit gives you a gentle nudge.

But why does God, the most powerful force of them all, choose to be so subtle?

Because he wants us to choose him! He wants us to love him – and that takes effort! Unlike the other influences that bombard us constantly and consistently, we have to be intentional to hear from God. We have to actively seek Him and intentionally block out the other voices. We have to pursue God. He wants us to love him enough to sacrifice our comforts, our lusts, and our natural desire to prosper without him.

Why?

1. Its a reasonable response to the sacrifice of redemption. Salvation is offered freely, but it wasn’t free. Jesus paid the price, and to live the redemptive life justly requires effort on our part.

2. The meaning of life requires it! Remember, the meaning of life is marriage. Jesus didn’t just come to save mankind, he came to redeem a bride! And he naturally wants a bride who wants Him and loves Him enough to be conformed to His image. His bride must be like Him – always and completely right and just.

And that’s the whole purpose of the 6th Dispensation, to find a bride for Christ!

This Bride consists of a group of people who are willing to accept His redemption, and intentionally and consistently allow themselves to be conformed to His image by heeding the voice of grace and be transformed into unique individuals who flourish in their individual greatness, adding the value of that greatness to the overall body of believers, thus creating a Bride worthy of God’s Son.

(Grace is personal, the guidance given to each person while always and completely right and just, also guides them to be the royal image bearer that was lost when Adam fell.)

This group of believers who are to be the Bride is called “the Church”.

If the 6th Dispensation were to be a success, the Church would be completely sanctified and conformed to Christ by obeying the voice of the Spirit completely.

However, logically, we know that this dispensation will fail like all the rest. But since we’re still in it, we don’t have the benefit of history to tell us exactly how and when it will end as we had with the other dispensations.

However we have enough knowledge of the dispensational pattern to take a theoretical stab at it. If success is tied to the Church hearing and obeying God’s voice, then failure would be the opposite -to ignore His voice.

But it has to be more than that. Dispensational failure means choosing ourselves over God. So then, in line with that pattern, this dispensation will fail when the Church chooses to be guided by ITS OWN voice instead of God’s!

I’ll address HOW this can happen in an upcoming post. As to WHEN this failure happens. . . I would contend that it ALREADY HAS!

Obviously that is a VERY provocative position that I’ll need to back up, and I will do that in an upcoming post as well.

But before we go there, we need to take a deeper look at this unique and mysterious entity called the Church. What is it? What are its origins? What is its purpose? Why does Jesus consider it his Bride? And what has it been doing the last 2000 years? We begin examining these questions next time.

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May 31, 2014

The Great Invasion – part 3: Blind in One Eye

Posted in Jesus, Organized Religion, Religion, Satan, Spiritual War, Spiritual Warfare, The Law tagged , , , , , at 11:44 PM by E. M.

HOW MYSTICS INTERPRET THE BIBLE

We’ve been looking at the advent and incarnation of The Redeemer from the perspective of His spiritual enemies. From the point of view of Satan and his minions, Jesus was a hostile force who had come to conquer them and take their territory.

Having failed to prevent Jesus’ advent and being unable to personally defeat Him physically or spiritually, Satan turned to his next line of defense – human Mystics.

As we’ve seen in previous posts, Mystics are individuals or small groups who claim to have and hold secret/hidden knowledge, and they use this knowledge (or the perception thereof) to rule over people.

Religious Mystics specifically claim (and sometimes actually have) special knowledge and/or power from spiritual entities.

Since their beginning, Mystics have found their way into every society and culture – and God’s nation of Israel wasn’t spared of their contamination. The priests of ancient Israel were often guilty of mixing God’s Law with the surrounding pagan practices – starting with the very first priest of Israel!

As with other Mystics, the Jewish religious leaders began to modify and add to God’s Law. The promoted themselves as the only ones who truly knew, understood (and therefore could interpret) the actual meaning of the Law. Thus, as the true “authority” on the Law, the people should follow them instead of actually learning the Law for themselves.

During Jesus’ time, these Mystics were called “Pharisees” (but Jesus had a more accurate name for them).

After Jesus had been baptized and anointed by God to begin His mission, He charged right into the flank of Satan’s second line of defense by doing something that the Pharisees would consider the most vicious frontal attack possible – Jesus taught people the Bible!

Not only did He teach the Bible, He taught it with authority! Jesus’ first major doctrinal sermon was a detailed lesson that amplified and clarified the Law. He juxtaposed the traditions that the Pharisees had ingrained in the people over the years with the true spirit of the Law. And it was brutal!

Jesus’ teaching amazed people because it stripped away everything that the Pharisees had piled onto God’s word (or took away from it) and reduced back to the original intention of the Law – to prove man’s nature and depravity and his need for a redeemer.

As His popularity grew, Jesus went from being an annoyance to a major threat in the eyes of the Pharisees – a threat that had to be dealt with. Unfortunately, the Pharisees thought they were just dealing with a street preacher from the sticks instead of the Son of God.

Their first tactic was to reinforce their authority by challenging Jesus’ understanding and observance of the Law. But they didn’t realize they were confronting the person who embodied the Law. Again and again Jesus showed His superiority to the self-proclaimed experts.

Since Jesus popularity was due to His knowledge (granted, the miracles didn’t hurt), the Pharisees next tactic was to show that He wasn’t the smarty pants that everyone thought He was. The Pharisees came up with one conundrum after another in an attempt to outwit Jesus, but when you challenge someone who has access to all the knowledge in existence, your chances of victory are pretty low.

Not only did Jesus answer every challenge, He gave them a taste of their own medicine by presenting them with a conundrum so challenging that they completely abandoned any future attacks!

But Jesus didn’t just play defense against the Pharisees, He directly confronted them and their errant teachings personally! Jesus called them out for being the deceptive, destructive hypocrites that they were and publicly admonished them for the damage they were doing in the “name of God”. If anyone believes that God categorically endorses someone just because they stand up and claim to be a “Man of God”, they have never read Matthew 23.

It was obvious that the Mystics could not defeat Jesus. With each successive public humiliation, Jesus’ stature grew and the Pharisees’ diminished. They only had one alternative left to preserve their illegitimate status. They had to commit the ultimate evil – They had to kill Jesus.

Looking at the narrative of Jesus and the Pharisees begs one huge question – if these Mystics were experts on the Old Testament, and the Old Testament contains over 300 prophesies that Jesus continuously fulfilled, then why didn’t the Pharisees recognize who He was?

The Pharisees spent their entire lives studying the scriptures and Jesus was the long awaited fulfillment of the Law. They should have been Jesus’ greatest supporters and most sincere disciples, not His greatest adversaries and erstwhile murderers.

Why did they reject Him?

Comparative thinking! Specifically the hyper-comparative thinking known as religion (and the inherent brain damage it causes).

The conflict is that in the 300+ prophesies of the Redeemer, there is a significant distinction in how Jesus is presented. In some of them, He is depicted as the suffering servant who is depised and rejected by men; the Lamb of God who must die a torturous death for man’s sins.

In other prophesies, He is the conquering King who thoroughly defeats the enemies of God and Israel, brings justice to the world and sets up a world-wide kingdom with its capital in Jerusalem.

How are these distinctions reconciled? The descriptions seem to contradict each other, but we know that contradictions don’t exist. Contrastive thinking would lead to the resolution that since there are two distinct descriptions and missions prophesized, then there must be two district advents of the Redeemer! Once as a suffering servant, and another as a conquering King.

When confronted with the two distinct advents of the Redeemer, instead of trying to reconcile them contrastively, the Pharisees decided to ONLY accept the advent they liked and completely ignored the less appealing one! They only embraced and taught the idea of their Messiah as a conquering King!

The result of this brain-damaged thinking was that the Jewish Mystics and the people who followed them were completely blind to the first advent of the Redeemer even though the Bible gave the exact date!

Even worse for the Jews is that God held them accountable to recognize their Messiah. Their failure to do so would have many dire consequences…

Jesus’ enemies were now ready to enact their final and seemingly most effective strategy to defeat Him – murder. But as has been the case throughout this war, apparent victory for the enemy would lead to great defeat. Next time

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November 19, 2013

The Redeemer – Part 2: Identity Crisis

Posted in Jesus, Salvation tagged , , , at 12:49 PM by E. M.

NOPE

UH, NO

When I was a kid, I was in the car with my dad when I saw a billboard on the side of a building with the picture of a guy with a plastic looking hairdo and a vacant stare that read “Jesus the Christ is Here!” (followed by a phone number and an address in Florida).

I turned to my father and yelled, “Look dad!  Jesus has returned, and He looks just like our plumber!”  He looked over at me, shook his head and sighed (a frequent occurrence during my childhood).

Of course Jose-Luis de Jesus Miranda isn’t the Redeemer (I’m not even sure he’s real).  Yet he is not alone in claiming to be the Christ.  Many characters throughout history have made messianic claims.  And although most of them are easily dismissed, some have been taken seriously enough to have gained significant and devoted followings (as the Bible predicted).  So it would seem that we have an identity crisis.  Or rather, an identity Christ-sis (see what I did there?)

In the last post, I ended my review of the Redeemer’s mission and attributes with the conclusion that Jesus of Nazareth was the Redeemer.  This is of course the belief of mainstream Christianity as well.  But the fact alone that this belief is shared by a majority does not make it true.

As with any other supposition, it has to pass the test of contrastive thinking.  Only by proving that no one else could be the Redeemer can we know conclusively that Jesus is Him.  How do we do this?  By again taking the specific Biblical predictions (prophesies) about the Redeemer and seeing if they match anyone else in history.

There are over 300 specific prophesies written about the Redeemer before His advent. But how likely is it that these events and attributes could have also been fulfilled by someone else?  Let’s play the odds with a few of them and see.  And just to keep things as contrastive as possible, I’m going to give myself some handicaps with the figures below.

*BEGIN MATH ALERT*

Let’s assume that in the history of the planet, there have been 100 billion people who have lived and died (that is a VERY generous estimate, but as I said, I’m intentionally giving myself handicaps).  What are the odds that one of them (other than Jesus) could have fulfilled only nine of the prophesies of the Redeemer?

The Bible says that the Redeemer would be born in Bethlehem (Prophesied in Micah 5:2, fulfilled by Jesus in Luke 2:4-5, 7).  Bethlehem is a tiny city that has historically had a population well below 5,000.  But let’s double that for our handicap to 10,000.  What are the chances that a random person in history would have been born in Bethlehem?  We’ll take our total population of 100 billion and divide by the historic Bethlehem population of 10,000, and we get 100,000 (one hundred thousand).  So for our purposes, these is a 1 in 100,000 chance of someone being born in Bethlehem (this means that if we selected 100,000 people at random from everyone who has ever lived, one of them would have been born in Bethlehem.)  So far so good?  (Probably not but I’ll be more casual with my estimates from now on).

The Redeemer was born of a virgin (Prophesized in Isaiah 7:14 Fulfilled by Jesus in Luke 1:26-27, 30-31).  How many people in history experienced a virgin birth?  I’d estimate zero, but let’s be kind and say 1 person in every million (1,000,000) was born of a virgin.

The Redeemer will receive gifts from Arabian kings  – (Prophesied in Psalms 72:10, fulfilled by Jesus in Matthew 2: 1-11).  Let’s say 1 in 1000 people have been given gifts from Arabian royalty at their birth (Middle-Eastern hospitality and all).

He was a miraculous healer of the blind, deaf, and lame – (Prophesized in Isaiah 35:5-6, fulfilled by Jesus in Matthew 11:3-5) I’m sure at least 1 in every 100,000 people have done that.

He was rejected by the people who had been waiting for him for almost a thousand years – (Prophesized in Isaiah 53:3   Fulfilled by Jesus in John 1:11, Luke 23:14-18).  Happens all the time, right? 1 in 10,000 chance.

He was betrayed by a friend for 30 pieces of silver (Prophesied in Psalms 55:12-13, Zechariah 11:12, fulfilled by Jesus in Matthew 26:14-15, 49-50).  Who hasn’t had a friend like that? 1 in 10,000 chance.

He was Silent before His accusers even though He was innocent (Prophesied in Isaiah 53:7, fulfilled by Jesus in Mark 15:4-5).  A common occurrence –  1 in 1,000

He would be executed by crucifixion (Prophesied in Psalms 22, fulfilled by Jesus in Matthew 27:35-36).  We’ll estimates that it’s happened to 1 in 100,000 people (they probably deserved it).

He would be resurrected from the dead (Prophesied in Psalms 16:10, Psalms 30:3, Isaiah 26:19,   fulfilled by Jesus in Mark 16:6-7).  Not counting zombies, let’s say 1 in 100,000 people have come back from the dead.

Now remember, the Redeemer had to fulfill all of these prophesies, so we need the composite odds.  We get that by adding up all the zeros (40) which gets us to 1040 (1 with 40 zeroes after it).  Divided by our total historical population of 100 billion people (1011), gets us 1029

So the odds of any one in history other than Jesus fulfilling these nine prophesies is one chance in 1029.  That’s a REALLY big number (here’s what it looks like – 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000).

How big is that?

Well, if the universe is 15 billion years old (and I’m not going to debate that right now), and we break that down into seconds, the universe is only 1017 seconds old!

If someone other than Jesus tried to randomly fulfill just nine of the 300 prophesies of the Redeemer once every second for the entire history of the universe (and then 1012 more seconds after that) they’d fail!

But wait, it gets worse!  Let’s say we triple the prophesies to get the odds of someone other than Jesus fulfilling just 27of the prophesies (and lets also assume no decreases in likelihoods as an additional handicap), we’d have 1040 x 1040 x 1040 = 10120.  Divide by our population of 1011, and we get 1 chance in 10109!

Now we have a bit of problem.  This is a number so big, it’s virtually incomprehensible.  How big a number is it?

Well, scientists estimate that in the entire universe, there are “only” 1082 atoms!  So there is neither enough time in the universe nor enough matter in the universe to give anyone other than Jesus any chance to fulfill just 27 of the 300 prophesies of the Redeemer!

*END OF MATH ALERT.  YOU MAY RETURN TO YOUR SEATS.

Math tricks aside, you can prove the historic identity of the Redeemer by looking at one spectacular and exacting prophesy found in the book of Daniel which gives the exact day that the Redeemer would present himself to Israel!  :

“ Seventy weeks [of years]* are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy.

Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command
To restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks [of years] and sixty-two weeks [of years]…” – Daniel 9:24-25

According to this passage, when the order to rebuild Jerusalem was given (it had been destroyed by the Babylonians after Israel screwed up one too many times), the Messiah (Redeemer) would present Himself exactly 69 weeks of years [483 years** or 173,880 days] later.

It just so happens that the order to rebuild Jerusalem is a matter of historic record. On the 14th of Nisan [March/April of our current calendar] of the year 445 B.C. the Persian King Artaxerxes, commissioned the rebuilding of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:1-8). 173,880 days later is the 6th of Nisan, 32 A.D.  This was the only day that the Messiah of Israel could present himself!

Jesus fulfilled that prophesy on the very day.  This is the day Christians celebrate as Palm Sunday.

Jesus of Nazareth is the only one that was, is, or could be the Messiah of Israel and the Redeemer of humanity!

There is one final and very controversial aspect about Jesus that we will address in this series.  If He was both mortal and divine, how come someone be fully man AND fully God?

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*Ancient Jews divided their years into groups of 7 (called a week of years) the same way we divide years into groups of 10, called decades.

**Jews used a 360 day calendar

October 1, 2012

Know Thy Enemy – Part 4: To Rival the Devil

Posted in Satan, Spiritual War, Spiritual Warfare tagged , , , , , at 11:45 AM by E. M.

 “From now on we are enemies, You and I. Because You choose for Your instrument a boastful, lustful, smutty, infantile boy and give me for reward only the ability to recognize the incarnation. Because You are unjust, unfair, unkind, I will block You, I swear it. I will hinder and harm Your creature on earth as far as I am able!” – Salieri, “Amadeus”

Satan’s pride and desire for worship led him to rebel against God. He was defeated and cast out of Heaven.  With this in mind, its understandable, that Satan’s position toward God is one of animosity.  But when you look through the Bible (and the world in general), its pretty clear that Satan has a healthy dose of antagonism toward us as well.

Why does Satan hate us so much?  Well obviously if Satan hates God, he’d naturally want to destroy anything that God loves.  But I think there is more to it than that.  Satan doesn’t just see us as cannon fodder in his war with God.  He sees us as his rivals.

In fact, the creation of man may have been a part of the impetus for Lucifer’s rebellion.  We don’t know exactly how it happened; however during a recent beer run in Nepal (no one makes ale like the Nepalese) a street merchant sold me a parchment that detailed a conversation between God and Lucifer that may shed light on the subject (and of course we know that if something is written on a mysterious ancient parchment, it MUST be true.  Right?).  Here is the transcript:

Lucifer – “Oh glorious Lord, your Angels all agree that your creations are a worthy reflection of your holiness and perfection! (None more so than me, of course, since I am your ultimate creation).”

God – “That’s true, but  I’m not done.  What I’m about to do next will be the pinnacle of my creations.”

Lucifer – “…but…I’m the pinnacle of your creations…right?”

God – “Well, yes.  Currently.  But I’m going to create Man.  And Man will be greater than you.”

Lucifer – “But I’m the Seal of Perfection!  How can this  “man” creature be greater than me?!  Nothing is greater than me!”

God – “I’m greater than you.  And I’m going to make Man in my image.”

Lucifer – “Why would you do that?”

God – “To add another Person to my Trinity – to increase Our love.”

Lucifer – “So you’re going to make Man in your image…but he will be created equal to me, right?  After all, I’m your ultimate creation.  Technically you can’t create anything higher than me.”

God – “ Actually I’m going to create Man a in a lower form than the Angels.”

Lucifer – “You’re kidding!”

God – “I don’t kid.  Men will have free will.  I want to give them the opportunity to choose Me, my righteousness, and my love.  If they do, they will become one with me and share my Throne.”

Lucifer – “Are you serious?!”

God – “I’m always serious.”

Lucifer – “How do you expect me to deal with these creatures?!”

God – “I expect you and the rest of the Angelic host to serve and minister to men.  Man will eventually rule over you.”

Lucifer – “No way!”

God – “Way.”

Lucifer – “You expect me to serve these things?!”

God – “Yes.”

Lucifer – “Do you know who I am?!”

God – “Uh, yeah.  I made you.”

Lucifer – “These are absolutely unacceptable working conditions!  I won’t stand for it!  I demand to speak to my union rep!”

God – “What are you talking about?  Where are you going?”

Lucifer – “I need to make some calls.”

Adam was created in God’s image. That is a claim that no other created being, including Satan could make. Moreover,  we’re destined to have all the things that Satan desired before he fell:

For you have said in your heart: “I will ascend into heaven.  I will exalt my throne above the stars of God. I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High. – Isaiah 14:12-14

However, it is God’s human children who will ascend to Heaven. We will be in a position of authority over the stars [angels] of God . We will share God’s authority .  We will be like the Most High.

So what do you imagine someone as vain, destructive, and temperamental as Satan would do if he felt that someone has stolen what was rightfully his?  He’d steal the things that have been given to them by God!

And Satan has actually been pretty successful in that venture to the point that he has taken possession of much of what God originally gave to man.  How?  We’ll examine that question next time

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May 5, 2011

Faith part 5: You Gotta Believe

Posted in Faith tagged , , , , , , at 10:01 PM by E. M.

UNBELIEF MAKES THINGS MORE COMPLICATED

The Second dispensation failed because the people of that era decided to only rely on the knowledge they had amassed during their lives.  They did not believe in anything that they did not have full knowledge of, therefore they did not believe in God.  They did not have faith.

The last few posts have dealt with the definition and application of faithreasonable faith is the willingness to rely on something that we do not fully know based on knowledge and experience. Now we need to look at the powerful result of faith – belief.

Every moment of our waking life is active.  We are constantly thinking, moving, acting, reacting, and making decisions.  When we act, we are performing that action based either on what we know, or what we don’t fully know.  There is no intellectual gap between knowing something, and acting on it.  However, when we don’t fully know something, the decision to act on it is based on what we believe about it.

Belief is the cognitive vehicle through which we act on that which we do not fully know. Belief, by definition, is based on faith.

Belief is absolutely necessary in order for us to live our lives because we do not know everything.  If we waited to have full knowledge of a situation before we acted on it, it would be impossible to ever get anything done.

If I want to go to the store to get some milk, I don’t know with 100% certainty that it is going to be a benign experience.  I don’t know that there is not a serial killer waiting outside my front door to lop my head off as soon as I step out.  There could be a three-car accident on the road to the store. The store may be cutting corners by getting milk from a herd with mad cow disease.

I’d need a Pentagon level of information and security details in order to try to have full knowledge of every possible contingency that could happen on my way to get milk.  But even that would not be enough.

It is not possible for us to know all the causes that could lead to all the possible effects, so I have to believe that the journey to get milk will be benign based on my previous milk buying experience and my knowledge that it is in the best interests of the store to provide me with an acceptable dairy product.

Why is belief so important?  The things you believe shape your mindset, your perspective, and your entire worldview.  They become the lens through which you view reality.  Belief is powerful because what we believe has a tremendous effect on who we are.

When we begin our lives as children, we have no knowledge or experience and (thanks to Adam and Eve) we have no connection to God.  Virtually helpless, we have nothing to rely on except irrational faith.  We believe everything we’re exposed to!

Generally the first thing of which we have we have real cognition is our parents and caretakers.  They are the first objects of our faith.  In an ideal environment, they would be our knowledge and experience guides, and would be there to mitigate our exploration of our new world.

But even the best parents are neither perfect nor omnipresent.  They will not always be there when we have a negative experience or get exposed to harmful knowledge.  In fact, they may be the source of much of the negativity.

What we believe during this time shapes our entire psyche.  Much of the science of human psychology is based on understanding and addressing the effects of these early beliefs.

If as a child you have a frightening experience with animals, water or heights (and no one is there to mitigate the fear), they could develop into life-long phobias and panic attacks because you will believe these things have inherent and omnipotent danger attached to them.  If your parents were unjust and contradictory in their behavior towards you, it could result in all kinds of relationship and personality disorders later in life.

It can get even worse as you grow up and begin to discover the philosophies that will shape your worldview.  Remember, beliefs are faith-based, which means if you have irrational faith, you will embrace irrational beliefs, which will result in an irrational worldview that will lead to you committing and justifying irrational actions and behaviors. (The preceding statement explains the existence of religion and political activists.)

But belief is also powerful because it is the key to healing all that psychological damage.

If the root causes of the damage to our psyche is wrong beliefs, then the solution is to replace those wrong beliefs with right (righteous) beliefs.  Its a matter of replacing your red jelly beans with blue ones.  Once again, it all comes back to contrastive thinking.

Remember, our psyche; the “real us” is spirit.  Replacing our wrong beliefs with righteous ones can heal and repair our spirit.  And where do we get the righteous beliefs to replace our wrong beliefs with?  From a source that is always and completely right and just.  God.

Belief in God can repair our spirits.  And since life is the ability to repair, belief in God can lead to eternal life.

The problem with the people in the second dispensation is that did not want to believe in God.  They wanted to believe that they could live without faith.  They believed that they could relay on nothing but their own knowledge.  They believed in themselves instead of God.  The inevitable result was death.

In the next post, we will wrap up our examination of the second dispensation by focusing on the famous event that ended it. What was the reasoning behind the Great Flood?  Why was it necessary to exterminate the entire population of the planet, save one family?  It’s a very controversial issue that we will take a look at next time.

March 29, 2011

Faith part 4: Fear Factor

Posted in Faith, Terminology tagged , , , , , at 7:36 AM by E. M.

In the last few posts, we have been examining faith. Generally speaking, faith is the willingness to rely on something that we do not have full knowledge of.

Biblically speaking, faith is the expectation of something good, from a source or object that is not fully known, based on some previously validated knowledge and/or experience with the source

There is another “faith based” reaction to that which is not fully known.  There are circumstances where we react to what we do not know with some level of trepidation instead of hope.  This reaction is called “fear”.

Like faith, fear can be reasonable or irrational depending on whether or not it is based on knowledge and/or experience.

It is reasonable and sensible to be afraid if you are walking in a high crime area, being tailgated by a teenage driver, or swimming in shark infested waters.  Why?  Because we have knowledge (or experience) that crimes tend to happen in high crime areas, teenagers are clinically insane, and sharks tend to bite the living  $#!&% out of people whenever they get the opportunity.

Reasonable fear can be defined as the rational mindfulness of something that has the power to affect us.  Another word that can be used as a definition of reasonable fear is “respect”

The type of fear that will be the focus of this post is irrational fear – Fear that is not based on knowledge and experience – fear of the unknown.

Irrational fear is that general, undefined dread that people often feel without any logical reason.  This fear is so common that it has become a major aspect of clinical psychology where it is known as “anxiety”.  It can manifest as anything from simple anxiousness, and obsessive-compulsive activity, to debilitating panic attacks.

This type of fear is actually the antithesis of Biblical faith.  Biblical faith is the expectation of something positive based on knowledge.  Fear is the expectation of something negative based on the unknown.

In the Bible we are told to “fear God”.  It doesn’t mean we are to quake before Him in primitive dread of His arbitrary whim.  It means we should demonstrate a rational respectfulness based on our knowledge of His power and His nature.

There are nearly 200 admonitions in the Bible that we not be fearful or anxious.  Those admonitions generally refer to fear that is not based on knowledge.   For example, just about every time people witness the appearance of a supernatural being in the Bible, there first reaction is to be paralyzed with fear (or worse) because they don’t understand what they are seeing.  At this point, the being quickly tells them not to be afraid, and then gives them knowledge to help them understand.

Why is admonition against irrational fear so prominent in the Bible?

If you have no knowledge of a situation that is causing you fear, then you have a choice to be comparative or contrastive.   The contrastive choice is to either cognitively acknowledge that it is pointless to fear the unknown, or rely on a source that has some level of knowledge of the unknown thing you fear.  The comparative choice is to rely on yourself to deal with the unknown situation; but since you have no practical knowledge, you will either become paralyzed by the fear or you will take destructive (evil) actions.

The Bible does offer a remedy to fear – that remedy is love!

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” – 1 John 4:18

How does love remedy fear?  Remember we defined love in an earlier post as the willingness to give without expectation of getting anything in return.

The common theme in love and fear is “expectation” – fear expects something negative.  Love expects nothing.

Therefore, if you are focused on love (no expectations) then you can’t have negative expectations – you can’t love and fear at the same time!

We will conclude our discussion of faith by focusing on the cognitive process that acts as the gateway to faith and fear.  Next time, we will examine  “belief”.

February 20, 2011

Faith part 3: The Ballad of Jungle Joe

Posted in Faith tagged , , , , , at 4:20 PM by E. M.

God has all the knowledge in existence.  In order to fully know God we would have to have all the knowledge in existence.  But since we don’t, we can only believe in God by faith. And as we saw in the last post, faith in God can be considered reasonable faith because it is based on knowledge and experience.

But God doesn’t JUST ask that we believe in His existence, He wants us to believe in in Him TOTALLY!

Based on the fact that there are almost 400 references to faith in the Bible, faith is obviously a critical part of a fellowship with God.  Why is faith so important to God’s plan?  Let’s look again at the components of faith.

Rational faith seems to be the willingness to rely on something that we do not have full knowledge of, based on some degree of prior knowledge/experience that we have had with the object of faith. In order to have faith, you must intentionally choose to ask the question “what don’t I know?”  That is a contrastive question!

The reason that faith is so important to God’s plan is because Reasonable faith requires humility and contrastive thinking.  And contrastive thinking is the way to become more righteous.

On the other hand, comparative thinking is antithetical to faith in this case because when you are comparative, you are relying only on what you do know. And again, since our knowledge is limited, we cannot fully believe in God if we are comparative.  This is the reason why the second dispensation failed!

If a person should reasonably believe in God because of their knowledge and/or experience of God, then the converse must also be true – one should NOT reasonably believe in God if that person has NO knowledge or experience with Him.

This brings up one of the skeptics’ favorite “contradictions” concerning faith in God and salvation.  It takes a form similar to the encounter below, which I have heard so many times I have come to refer to it as “The Jungle Joe Paradox”.  It goes something like this:

“You Christians say that all people are doomed to Hell from birth and the only way to be saved into Heaven is to believe in God.  Well that’s fine for people in America where there is a church on every corner and 24-hour Christian television, but what about the people who live in primitive jungles?  They may go their entire life without ever meeting a Christian or reading the Bible.  According to you, God is going to send them all to Hell because they never believed in Him.  That’s totally unfair and I can’t believe in a so called “loving God” who would operate like that.

When a cynic or an atheist presents this argument, it is usually not out of a sincere desire to know God’s plan, but more as a deflection to take the focus off of their personal unbelief and project it onto the hypothetical “Jungle Joe”.

The silliness of that objection can easily be shown by asking them a few questions.  I first ask them if they’ve had an opportunity to choose a college, a career, a place to live, and a spouse during their life.  The answer is usually yes.  Then I ask them if the relative predicament of an anonymous person living in the jungle played a role in any of these decisions.  The answer of course is no.  Thus they acknowledge that they are fully capable of making choices that have great impact on their lives without taking Jungle Joe into account, and the decision about their eternity should be no different.”

However, essence of the dilemma does deserve to be addressed.  If there are people who have no knowledge or experience with God, it would be unjust of God to hold them accountable to have reasonable faith in Him. However, the Bible makes it clear

For what can beknown about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. – Romans 1:19-21 ESV

What this verse is saying is that the nature of creation itself testifies to God’s existence.  The first 8 posts in this blog proves God’s existence based solely on logic and reason. The reason Jungle Joe can be held to the same level of accountability as someone in the “civilized word” is that man has an innate knowledge of God whether he has been exposed to organized Christianity or not.

No matter what geographical, political, or social situation in which a human being exists, they are universally aware of six things

  1. There is a transcendent being who is all powerful and created the universe – People are inherently theistic, you don’t have to convince a young child or “uncivilized” man to believe in God; it’s natural to them.  Atheism has to be taught.
  2. This transcendent being is not indifferent to his creation and interacts with it/us – People in primitive societies acknowledge that deity(s) intervene in their lives.  There are no deists in the jungle
  3. There is an absolute right and wrong (good and bad). – Moral relativism is another creation of “civilized society”
  4. The rightness (righteousness) originates in the transcendent being and wrongness (unrighteousness) is all that is in opposition to him – We all inherently know that we need to be justified
  5. Like righteousness, justice exists, is absolute, and is mediated by the transcendent being – We all inherently know when we are being treated unfairly and we all expect justice to be equaled out.
  6. Man’s natural tendency is to be unrighteous and unjust (sinful) – all societies and cultures have to impose rules/laws to enforce good behavior.

Here’s the most important part – if, after realizing that it is impossible for him to be always and completely righteous and just by his own power, Jungle Joe contrastively appeals to the transcendent being (and Him alone) to rescue him from his unconquerable desire to do evil, then he has shown the faith that God desires, and it is counted to him as righteousness in the same manner as the Old Testament saints [Galatians 3:6-9]. But if he decides to justify himself and/or appease the deity by his own actions, his situation is no different than any other unbeliever.

Everyone has enough knowledge of God to have reasonable faith in Him.  Whether or not we choose to have faith is up to us.

Biblical faith is based on hope that something good will occur.  But there is a darker form of “faith” that is actually the opposite of Biblical faith and can result in evil.  Next time, we take a look at “fear”.

November 20, 2010

A Tale of Two Trees part 5 – Eating Yourself to Death

Posted in The Dispensations tagged , , , , , , , at 4:02 PM by E. M.

THE EPITOME OF SHORT-TERM THINKING

This week we conclude our examination of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil by understanding why eating the fruit of the Tree led to death for Adam and Eve (and consequently, for all of us).

It’s easy to see what has become of humanity since the fall of man (just watch an episode of “Jersey Shore”).  But what were things like before Original Sin?

Before Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they were in a state of complete innocence.  They lived and thought only in the moment.  They “walked with God” daily and thus received constant direction from Him.  They never had to think about tomorrow or “what to do next”, because God was always there to tell them.  Their only obligation was to obey.

The Bible makes a point of saying that they were naked and unashamed. They didn’t know the implications of being naked because they never thought that far ahead!  They ran around naked and free in their naïveté without giving any thought to what would happen next.  They were like babies in that sense (or college kids on spring break).

So what happened when they ate from the Tree?  Well, as advertised, they gained knowledge of good and evil – of creation and destruction.

Does this mean that Adam and Eve did not know what creation and destruction were before they ate the fruit?  No, they knew about creation because God undoubtedly explained the origin of the world to them, plus Adam knew that Eve had been created.  They knew about destruction because they witnessed it on a small scale whenever they ate fruit from the other trees (“destroying” it in the process).

But the complete definitions of good and evil are creation and destruction in the long-term. That is what Adam and Eve gained knowledge of:  the long-term!

When they disobeyed God, they voluntarily disconnected themselves from His influence.   Their constant “life guide” was gone. They were on their own for the first time in their existence. They were no longer led by an intelligence that was always and completely right and just.  They had to figure out what to do next based on their own imperfect judgment and thought processes.

The human brain is in a constant state of creating and “rewiring” itself based on our thoughts and experiences.  This is most dramatically true with infants because their lack of experience gives them the most new neural connections to make.  As heretofore-innocent beings, Adam and Eve were in a similar position.

When they had to think long-term for the first time, brand new connections would have begun to form in their brains.  They began to process long-term cause/effect relationships and they started to understand the ramifications of what they had done.  They were able to imagine a future in which they were separated from God.  They became afraid, and they hid.

When Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they began to see all the long-term implications of their nakedness – desire, sexual intimacy, joy, pregnancy, heart break, child rearing, guilt, jealousy, etc. (basically, they took on the opposite mindset of a kid on spring break).

When they experienced this flood of knowledge and the guilt associated with it, Adam and Eve committed the first religious act by covering their “shame” with fig leaves.

What was it about the fruit that caused this?  Did it have some type of “magical” composition?  Did it contain a deadly brain toxin (could this have been the origin of high-fructose corn syrup)?  No, I think that it was just regular fruit.  What made it significant was God’s command not to eat it, which entailed the choice to stop living with moment-by-moment direction from Him.  It was the choice that disconnected Adam and Eve from God, not the fruity goodness.

God told Adam that in the day that he ate the fruit, he would die.  How could God accurately make that prediction?  Because He knew the causes that would lead to the effects.  God knew that Adam and Eve were not always and completely right and just, so when they gained the knowledge of the long term and had the burden of decision, they would choose to pursue death by being comparative.

But God, being just, had to give them the opportunity to be contrastive – to repair their brains and live.  Instead, they predictably chose to be comparative.  They chose death.

And thus all of their descendants (us) follow the same pattern.  We are all born innocent, however, since we are born without a connection to God, we all quickly gain knowledge of the long term.  And since we are not always and completely right and just, we (like our original ancestors) choose to be comparative.  We all eventually commit Original Sin and our brains become wired to pursue death.  We damage our brains and compound and escalate that damage as we gain more experience.

But fear not.  All is not lost.  In the next post we will conclude our study of the first dispensation by examining the curses that God placed on Adam, Eve, and the serpent after Original Sin.  The curses are the source of many of the struggles we face today, but in the midst of the curses He pronounces, God also gives us our greatest hope for redemption.  Next time.

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October 31, 2010

A Tale of Two Trees part 4 – Evil is as Evil Does

Posted in Terminology tagged , , , , , at 8:45 PM by E. M.

THE GATEWAY TO EVIL (AND CHLAMYDIA)

In order to understand why eating fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil would lead to death for Adam and Eve we have to first gain an objective understanding of what “good” and “evil” are.

In the last post, we examined the Biblical definition of “good”.  In this post, we will address “evil”.

In the last post we saw that “good” is “that which creates”.  However we also saw that sometimes circumstances call for short term destruction in order for there to be long-term creation.  So the complete definition of “good” is the idea of “that which creates in the long-term

Biblically speaking, evil is presented as the opposite of good.  So “evil” would then obviously be defined as “that which destroys in the long term”.

When we are tempted to do evil, we are tempted to do something that will (or that we think will) be good; that will create something for us (pleasure, happiness, satisfaction, reward, etc.).  But it only creates in the short term, and the long-term results are destruction.

There are many obvious examples of this – drug and alcohol abuse, reckless driving, lying, cheating, theft, sex with Kim Kardashian (boy, do I regret that now.  Thank God for penicillin).

We also saw in the last post that the ultimate expression of “good” is eternal life – perpetual creation.  Conversely, the ultimate expression of “evil” would be eternal death – perpetual irreparable destruction.  Hell.

The key to determining whether something is good or evil is to look at the long-term intent and results.  For example, saving your money is good because the long-term results are the ability to buy a home, send your kids to college, and enjoy a secure retirement.  But in the short term, it means the sacrifice of certain pleasures.  On the other hand, if you spend all your money as soon as you get it, you can have a great time in the short term, but the long-term results are a future of poverty and debt.

Understanding long-term vs. short-term is also a key to understanding God’s actions in the Bible, in the world, and in our lives.  God is good.  He creates in the long term.  His focus is not on our short-term happiness; His focus is our long term good.  The ultimate long-term good is eternal life.  And if God has to introduce or allow short-term pain, discomfort, distress and frustration into our lives in order to drive us toward accepting and embracing the things that will lead us to eternal life, then that is what He will do.

When persistent and/or unusual calamities occur in our lives, instead of complaining and questioning God’s goodness, it would probably be more beneficial to ask, “God, what are trying to drive me towards and how will it work for my long-term good?”  That, my friends is contrastive thinking!

Contrastive thinking can lead to eternal life, which again, is the ultimate expression of “good”.  Therefore, we can say that contrastive thinking is good.  Comparative thinking prevents repair and can lead to perpetual death.  Therefore, we can say that comparative thinking is evil.

So how can you tell if a person is good or evil?  Actually, you can’t.  None of us has enough comprehensive information about another person to categorically declare their entire being good or evil.

This is the rationale behind one of the most misquoted verses in the Bible – The admonition not to judge in Matthew 7:1.  This verse is often used by a guilty person as their defense when you confront them about their wrongdoings.  (Have you ever heard an innocent person tell you not to judge them?)  Instead of owning up to their guilt, they try to sidestep it by attacking your right to accuse them.  But we are told later in the same chapter of Mathew that we can and should judge what a person does (Matthew 7:15-20).

So while we cannot judge whether a person, is good or evil, we can judge if they are pursuing good or evil.  How?  Examine the long-term intent and results of their actions.  Is the focus of their life the pursuit of creation or destruction?  Do their actions lead to repair, and life, or do they lead to stagnation, and destruction?  Are they motivated by the desire to grow, even if it causes them discomfort and pain, or do they actively justify themselves in order to avoid pain?  When they are wrong, do they think comparatively or contrastively?

What a person pursues in the long-term is the key to understanding their life.  Furthermore, examining you own life and looking at what you are pursuing in the long-term can allow you to see if you are headed toward life or death.

Now that we understand good and evil, we are ready to examine the ramifications of Adam and Eve eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  But before we do, there is one more question that needs to be addressed.  God’s plan of redemption (the Fall of Man, the incarnation of Christ, the cross and the Resurrection) all seem predicated on the existence of evil.  So, does God need evil in order to bring about His plan? Does good need evil in order to exist? Next time.

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September 20, 2010

A Tale of Two Trees part 2 – Death

Posted in Terminology tagged , , , , at 8:08 PM by E. M.

NOT EVERYONE'S IDEA OF HEAVEN

There were two trees in the Eden narrative – the Tree of life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  One sustained life, the other brought death.  In the last post, we saw that life is the ability to repair physically and spiritually.  Physical life is in the blood, and spiritual life is in words.  The right nutrients in blood can repair physical damage, and the right information in words can spiritual damage.  The right information (expressed in words) that can repair and lead to spiritual life, are words of repentance.  Repentance begins with contrastive thinking.

With the right blood, and the right thinking, you could repair forever and have eternal life.

If life is the ability to repair, then obviously “death” is the inability to repair.

Since death did not exist before Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, it is logical to assume that they were initially immortal, or at least had the means to sustain their “alive” status without any cellular degradation (presumably by eating from the Tree of Life). But when they ate the forbidden fruit, something happened to disrupt this.

So what happened when they ate the fruit?  Their disobedience cut them off from righteousness (God) and instead of repenting and repairing, they chose to be comparative.  This comparative thinking lead to a form of brain damage that was passed on to their genetic offspring (us).  Thus, while Adam and Eve were created in the image of God, we are all born in the image of fallen Adam and Eve.

We’ve inherited their brain damage.  We are born without the connection to righteousness (God) that they had.  We are born self-centered instead of God-centered.  We are born with an innate capacity for comparative thinking.  We are born without an innate desire for contrastive thinking (Romans 3:10-12).  We are born without the ability for sustainable spiritual self-repair – we are born spiritually dead.

When Adam and Eve got the boot from the Garden of Eden, they also lost access to the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:22-24), so they lost the capacity for sustainable physical self-repair, and their bodies began to age and deteriorate toward physical death.  And their offspring suffer the same curse.

But this situation, while just, presents God with a problem.  A population of spiritually dead and physically dying people would make it impossible for God to get what He wants (spending eternity with the walking dead probably isn’t much fun – unless you’re Stephen King).  So God has to come up with a just way for dead and dying people to regain life.

How can the dead and dying regain life?  By being reborn.  In order to be reborn, we first have to die.

We will all die at least once.  Our physical bodies will one day die and decompose, but our spirit is different.  It cannot cease to exist because it is eternal.  However, as we just read, our spirit can be “dead” when it cannot repair.

Yet while we are born spiritually dead, we are born physically alive. We continue to grow and repair (non-lethal) damage until we peak in early adulthood, then we deteriorate and die physically.

If a physical rebirth were possible, it would have to happen after physical death.  but since we are born spiritually dead, we could conceivably experience spiritual rebirth while we are physically alive.  We could be spiritually “born again” even though our physical bodies are deteriorating.

How could this rebirth happen?  Through perfect thinking and perfect blood.  If we could gain access to perfect thinking and perfect blood, we could be reborn into spiritual life while we are still physically alive (though deteriorating), and regain sustainable physical life after our bodies die.

So if we could experience two births (Initial physical birth and spiritual rebirth) we would only die once (physical body).  However if you were to choose not to access the perfect thinking and perfect blood for whatever reason, then when your physical body dies, justice would demand that your spirit be put into a state in which it could not repair for eternity.  We’ll discuss this in a later post when we address “Hell”.

In a nutshell – if you’re born twice, you die once.  If you’re born once, you die twice.

It would seem then that a result of the first dispensation was the need for God to find a righteous and just way to give humanity access to perfect thinking and perfect blood so that those who chose to accept it could live for eternity.  This idea will prove to be the seed plot of our entire history.

Understanding life and death completes our look at the Tree of Life.  Now we need to take a look at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Why did gaining knowledge of good and evil lead to death for Adam and Eve?  In order to answer that, we need to understand what “good” and “evil” are.  Next time…

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