Bible Literacy – Explore the Ocean

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” (Hosea 4:6)

2022-04-02 Flight RecorderMost jets are outfitted with an orange “black box” flight recorder that can help investigators figure out what when wrong after an airline crash.  The bottom line on most crashes is “miscommunication.”  The pilot or navigator failed to get important information, either about the weather, another aircraft, the runway or some other factor that resulted in the deaths of most or all of those on the jet.

There is much about eternity and the nature of God that is like that black box; we do not understand on this side of the grave.  And there is much about God we will never understand, even after we begin to live in Heaven.  After all, HE is the Uncreated God and we are not.

But there is much about eternity and God that we CAN understand, as He loves us and wants to share our lives for all of time, and He has revealed to us what we need to know.  What He has revealed is so simple a toddler can understand, yet so profound that the greatest philosophers and scientists can still miss it.  “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.” (Matthew 11:25-26)

However, to get to know Him well we need more than the simple experience a child can fathom.  As C.S. Lewis pointed out, “If a man once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he will be turning from something real to something less real… The map is admittedly only colored paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it. In the first place, it is based upon what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would be a single glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together. In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary.” (in Mere Christianity)

2022-04-02 Bible ContentsSuch is the Bible: a map for those wanting to know The God Who Is.  Like “cartography,” the study of maps, there will be much in this map of God that we will not understand at first, just as the novice explorer will not understand all the details of topographical or nautical instruction on his maps.  But to fully understand the terrain or ocean on which the explorer roams, he must learn to use his maps.

In the same way, to fully understand The God Who Is, as much as we can understand him from this tiny blue ball we call earth, we must learn to use the Bible, with care, accuracy and precision.  Biblical literacy is vitally important to fulfill all that Father intends for us to be and do while on earth.  Jesus warned, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.” (Matthew 22:29)

Some complain there are so many translations, which one is best?  My “best” recommendation is to explore multiple translations any time you embark on Bible study, as various ones bring different innuendo to the text.  See https://www.biblegateway.com/ for some excellent tools, including side-by-side translations, devotionals, blogs and other resources for Bible study.

There are three basic methods of translation: word-for-word, thought-for-thought, and paraphrases.
Word-for-word can be very awkward as languages have different syntax and structure.  However, you can find “interlinear” Greek and Hebrew texts online if that is what you wish to explore.  You will quickly see why translators for common folk such as us do not use word-for-word translation, but more thought-for-thought.

Of course, thought-for-thought can get dangerous if the underlying philosophy or theology of the translator is aberrant.  Fortunately, there are so many translations available, these will usually be easy to ferret out; e.g., if a translator discards masculine or feminine pronouns or dismisses the miraculous power of God to overrule His laws of physics or biology.

Paraphrases are the most subject to the translator’s personal opinions, but often can provide insight into cultural phrasing and attitudes that straighter translations will miss.  An example of this is The Cotton Patch Version’s treatment of John 1:5: “The light shined in the darkness and the darkness couldn’t do a blessed thing about it!”  This captures somewhat the idea, but puts it in a particular vernacular of southern US culture.

The following is a graphic illustrating the degree of “accuracy” of several English language translations, listing some translations as word-for-word, although they are not interlinears.  Note, for those who prefer King James English of 1611, the KJV remains one of the best translations for accuracy of the words.  My only concern with KJV is that the Old English employed can leave one feeling like you are reading a foreign language if you are not schooled in Shakespeare.  The poetry and beauty of it is unmatched by the NASB or ESV, but remember, when it was translated, THIS was the way common people talked!

2022-04-02 Biblical Literacy

The NIV is one of the most popular because of the excellent marketing the publishers did when it first came out in 1978 by one of the most prominent Bible translation groups around at the time, and its list of scholars were some of the greatest minds in evangelical circles.  The ESV came out in 2001 and utilized updated research and linguistic scholarship in an attempt to render as literally as possible what was in the original autographs (which have long been lost to antiquity), including recognizing different writing styles of each different author of the various books.

As you read and study the Bible, expect there will be things that are difficult to accept or understand, but the Scripture is the proven Word of God just as surely as Jesus is the Living Word.  It is not anti-science; it is not fantasy or myth; it is not racist or misogynistic or patriarchal.  When understood it will reveal a God who is holy and loving, gracious and truthful, and transcends cultures and ages of the world.

As I have noted in previous blogs, There is no book in history that has been more reliably preserved and translated than the Bible.  There is no book in history that has more power to change the human condition than the Bible.  There is no book in history that is more important for knowing the God Who Is than the Bible.

See https://capost2k.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/the-reliability-of-the-bible-part-1/ for the beginning of a series on The Reliability of the Bible.  Remember always that the Bible is the map, however, not the Atlantic Ocean!  Use it wisely, but do not get caught in the trap so many theologians fall into of studying the map in their offices in such detail that they never get in a boat to go sailing.

2022-04-02 Sailing With Jesus“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”  (John Shedd)

Guest Blog by Thompson Lengels

Personal Meditation on Death and Dying
by ThompsonLengels / March 19, 2022
(with minor edits for spelling, syntax and references)

Fear of Death

Satan has a season when he loves to prick the saint’s conscience — their dying day!  Alas, he comes with all those failing spots to which the saint has succumbed! (Psalm 90:7-8)

When he comes, we may as well say to him:  It is true, Satan. I have failed often, more so, broken asunder to despair and despondency.  But also, listen.  Christ accepted me in my wicked state; died for me while a whore, a swearer, a guiler, an idolater, adulterer, a fornicator, and all the filthy exercises about which you think.  I say Christ died for me in all this mud of sin (Romans 5:8).  All that is good in me is but by His unmerited grace, undeserved mercy.

Death, to a Christian, is a doorway to glory.  To live in Christ is to keep in step with Christ.  So also, he that would die well must never put off the inevitability of death — he must live as a dying man.  The Christian’s death is the ending of his troubling sins, an entrance to a land where sin and sorrow are no more.  We must look at death as a thing we must meet, and look upon ourselves as a thing with which we must part.

It is never too soon to make friendship with death.  We never get what we think we want because God always gives us what we need.  One day our need will be death.

SkullDeath is gain; freedom from doubt and unbelief.  In Heaven our faith will be turned into sight.  Here the best are liable to doubt about their personal piety, and often experience many an anxious hour in reference to this point.  In Heaven doubt will be known no more.

Death is the grave of all temptations.  A Christian’s death delivers them from the second death.  Put another way, a Christian dies natural to live eternal.  In Heaven there are no graves, but eternal grace.

After our death, we will be met by our believing loved ones who went ahead of us to be with Christ.  O beloved Christian, why fear death?  It is natural to fear death, but we may meet it with faith in Christ.

Time PassingWhen death knocks at your door, don’t murmur and grumble about it.  Rejoice, you are going Home at last!  Does the prisoner, long confined in a dungeon, dread the hour which is to open his prison, and permit him to return to his family and friends?  Does the man in a foreign land, long an exile, dread the hour when he shall embark on the ocean [or the sky] to be conveyed to where he may embrace the friends of his youth?  Does the sick man dread the hour which restores him to health; the afflicted, the hour of comfort?  The wanderer at night, the cheering light of returning day?

And why, then, should the Christian dread the hour which will restore him to immortal vigor?  Which shall remove all his sorrows?  Which shall introduce him to everlasting day?  Smile at death when your time draws nigh.

Death is an awful reality to men who have made this world their only home and the things of this world their only possessions.  Do not waste any unnecessary time below here.  Let us live as diligent laborers in a field full of harvest, harvesting men to Christ Jesus.

Live as men who appreciate the world, but let us live like men who are more in love with the world to come, the world of Christ Jesus.  To die and be with Christ is the final pilgrimage of the wounded saint.  The saint finally meets with Eternal Rest and Blessed Felicity.

The door of death is inscribed thus: “Prepare to meet your God!”  Christ is best!

Death is sleep. “The girl is not dead but sleeping.” (Luke 8:52)  The natural man is tempted to laugh.  You’re wise and know how to apply.  Death will very soon reveal the children of God and the devil.

We must have our heart and mind in Heaven if we are to look at death with courage in Christ.  “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2).  So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

Beware of head-knowledge in the face of death!  It will not comfort you.  How is your heart and way of life instructed by your accumulated knowledge on the things of God?  Do you know God, or things about God?  That’s the question!  Be honest with yourself!

I’ve observed humble men die well.  Improve life by dying daily to self and enrich the soul by being alive in Christ.  I am homesick for Heaven.

You’re not too young to die.  Make peace with God.  This old fellow knows his time is nigh.  Here today, gone tomorrow.  Make no permanent nest in this world.  Death is a golden carriage that lifts the soul to a golden city, a celestial city.  Fellow mortal, cease playing Immortal.

Cemetery at GettysburgThe whole world is a big cemetery of dead men walking.  Those that resolve to repent tomorrow intend to be wicked today.  A delay of repentance breastfeeds and strengthens our sin — and the wages of sin is death!  (Romans 6:23)

The conversion of the thief at the cross is not a canon that all of us are guaranteed conversion to Christ at our death-bed.

We read in the Holy Scriptures of men who were called at their infancy such as Jeremiah, Samuel and John the Baptist.  Some were chosen in their prime age of youth like the four Hebrew children, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel.  Others were called in their advanced adulthood such as the disciples, John, James, Peter, and Andrew.  Other were called while carrying out their business of the day as Matthew, the tax-collector and Luke, the physician.  Others were called while in their sin-business as the forgiven harlot and the woman at Jacob’s well.  Others while gazing at a fig tree or climbing a sycamore as Nathanael and Zacchaeus.  Still others were called in their old age as Joseph of Arimathea and the Jewish scholar, Nicodemus.  And last of all, at their death-bed — the thief at the cross!

Dead TreeThere’s no such thing as purgatory and indulgences.  When you die, you are dead!  And all must die!  If not now, tomorrow.  If not tomorrow, the next day.  If not the next day, then, the following day.  If not the following day, … then the next!

We can only sing, “Death has lost its sting,” (Hosea 13:14; 1 Corinthians 15:55) if we truly understand what the cross of Christ accomplished for us.

Rest In Peace

Death laughs at bags of gold.  Death is a level ground where the rich and poor; proud and humble; high and low; prince and peasant, all lay and become wholesome meal for the worm. (Job 21:23-26)  A man’s life, however great it was, is always summarized by this little word — Death!

Jesus Christ not only died.  He conquered death by death itself!  Christ stung death to death!
He is our resurrection!

NOW is the day…

“Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2)

In Kentucky, people still go to the grocers, take their kids to school or get them ready for a school-bus; they attend church meetings and school assemblies for their kids; city councils still meet and debate whether to widen a road or how to change the construction code; my neighbors hired guys to put in a new fence and I am going to the garden center to discuss what to plant in front of my house to replace the yews I may remove tomorrow.

In fact, life in these United States and most of the world still plods on for most of us without houses crumbling in from missiles nor energy plants being shelled.  No convoys of invading tanks, only a peaceful bunch of truckers who want to protest vaccines and masks that are about to be ended so the politicians will face less voter wrath next year.  (I was told that state legislatures are considering bills to order men in city subdivisions to pair up with each other and go get a coffee or beer together once a week; but they are not going to call them laws… they’re going to call them man-dates. 🙄)

See, we even make lame jokes here, while an entire country is evacuating except for those willing to put their lives at risk and kill invaders from the neighboring nation.  Some are kneeling in public squares to fast and pray for safety.  Reports of deaths range from a couple hundred to a few thousand when you include invaders that have been crushed.  Nuclear arms stand ready for a diabolical finger to push a button and blow an entire city off the map in a nation that does not have nuclear weapons.

Digression: On July 28, 1914, Serbian puppets of Russia assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, in Sarajevo.  Exactly one month later, August 28, with German support the Austrian emperor declared war, followed by Russian retaliation and World War 1 began, eventually leading to over 100 countries from every continent becoming involved. 
“The War to End All Wars?”
Only in 21 years, in August of 1939, Hitler’s Germany amassed troops on the border of Poland and demanded a meeting in Berlin with the Polish ambassador (a plenipotentiary).  His feet were hardly warmed at a fireplace when Germany invaded Poland on September 1 with a “blitzkrieg” to begin World War 2.  This time 191 nations entered the war!  (There are only 195-199 in the world, depending on who is counting.)
In the meantime, WW2 resulted in changes in China that culminated in Mao Zedong claiming the founding of the PRC, chasing his opponents (about 3 million) to Taiwan.
And the world has been at war ever since, whether in Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, Kashmir, “Kurdistan,” Iraq, Iran and much of Africa and the Mideast.
“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.”  (Matthew 24:6-8)

Back To The Point: All this is to say the end is still to come!”  And the question on everyone’s mind is, WHEN?  With a conflict that could easily erupt into World War 3, which a Russian spokesman says will be nuclear, this is not a time to play games with life and with The God Who Is.  Such an event would happen so suddenly, that while diplomats try to lie and say it is unlikely, most of the world will be shocked and caught off-guard. 

So the question that should be on everyone’s mind is not when the end will come, but “Will I be ready if it happens tomorrow?”  You can know that you are ready, and such knowledge removes the fear that is motivating so many political debates and military discussions.  Knowing Jesus is not just knowing about Him, like reading a biography (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and getting the facts together.

Knowing Jesus is to meet Him.  Granted, most of us will not have visions or dreams in which we actually shake His hand or see His face.  But by praying and inviting Him to come into your life, if you ask with belief that He will answer, He will come into your heart.  Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20)

This invitation is to you.  No matter where you have been, what you have done; there is no ethnicity, color, language group or nationality that is excluded.  You can come to Jesus just as you are.  Simply repent (i.e. turn away from your selfish choices and anything opposed to godliness) and ask Jesus to come and live in you by His Holy Spirit.  And HE WILL!   Invite Him to lead your life from this day forward and be submissive to what He tells you.

He will usually speak first through the Bible.  Read it!  It is not a single book, but a collection and there are tons of helps for reading and studying it, to understand the basics of what it means to become a disciple of Jesus.

He also speaks through your conscience, if you have not seared it with persistent sin or disobedience to what the Bible teaches.

Be open to instruction by followers of Jesus who have been following Him longer than you.  They are not “the last word” on how you should live for Jesus, but rely on their wisdom to begin to consider how you should live.

Even if a world war is not imminent, no one gets a guarantee of tomorrow. “Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish.” (Isaiah 46:10, New Living Translation) And He is not telling most of us how many days we have left on earth.  And even if you are younger than 70 years old, no one here gets out alive!

So do not wait.  Do not hesitate.  Do not say, “l’ll do it tomorrow.”  Do not put it off for “a more convenient time.”  Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2, NLT)  Do not let anything stop you.  Trust in Jesus today.

Email me (capost3k@gmail.com) if you want to connect to Christ-followers in your city or discuss anything else about this decision. 

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)

Guest Blog: My Six-Month Experiment with Christianity Turned into 12 Months, Then 24 …

How the son of a Hindu priest gradually made his peace with the “unfairness” of the Cross.
by Dr. Chris Goswami

2022-01-08 Chris Goswami

Even at the distance of over 40 years, I still remember having my fingerprints documented for my criminal record. It was the first time in my life I had felt ashamed about anything.

The young police constable was pleasant enough as he gently guided me through the process of fingers, thumbs, and ink pads. He was sensitive to the sense of grief originating from a single sound in the room: the uncontrollable weeping of my distraught mother sitting a few feet away, as my father tried quietly calming her.

As recent immigrants to the UK from India, they were confused and shocked. They had wrenched themselves from established lives as schoolteachers. They had traveled to England by sea, working in a shoe factory and selling bus tickets so that my brother and I could go to school. For families immigrating from the Indian subcontinent, providing an education for their children was (and still is) the driving priority. So when my parents discovered that their teenage son had spent years secretly engaging in arson and shoplifting just “for fun,” they could barely comprehend it.

Sometimes it takes the tears of a loved one to stop us in our tracks and focus our minds on where we’ve gone wrong. But what exactly was I ashamed of? My mother’s grief had brought sudden clarity about the damage I had caused to my family — shameful, lasting damage. It dawned on me that there really is a moral law in the universe, and I had overstepped it. Actions had consequences, just as my family had taught me. The Hindu idea of karma, I had learned, is that you get what you deserve. Here was karma, spectacularly demonstrated.

Debating Christianity
I am the son of a Hindu priest who was himself the son of a Hindu priest. In the working-class English town where I grew up, life revolved around our close-knit Indian community. We regularly met in temples or public halls to celebrate religious festivals and holidays. I never once heard the gospel in my first 18 years. My understanding had always been that “Christian” meant you were white and British, and no one ever suggested otherwise.

But then I left home for university and — by some divinely orchestrated coincidence — got to know a bunch of Christians. To me, they were do-gooders: nice enough people who just did not have their heads screwed on straight when it came to being rational. They would take me along to meetings where someone would present a Christian message or testimony. Afterwards, we would debate what seemed (to me) like the many holes in their arguments. Despite my skepticism, these good Christian students adopted me as some kind of “project.” I did not share their faith, but their friendship and concern moved me.

You see, there was always one roadblock on my journey to understanding Christianity, one concept that, in my view, was immoral and unacceptable: the idea of grace. The notion of someone else suffering shame and pain for the wrongs I had chalked up was absurd and repugnant. To me, grace and karma were complete opposites. Karma is logical; it feels right. It is fair. Karma is what happened in the police station that day.

This attitude persisted for some time, until one of my friends, Alex, commented thoughtfully, “Chris, you can argue forever about the unfairness of the Cross. In many ways you’re absolutely right. Or, you can accept that this man Jesus died because he loves you. It’s up to you.”

Still carrying my doubts, I worked out a way to give this Christian thing a try: Make the commitment, say the prayer, and see what happens over the next six months. I reckoned I would know in that time if it was true or not. What was there to lose?

The six months became 12, and then 24 (mainly because I continued to enjoy the social life of church). I graduated in engineering and began studying toward a PhD. But I was a lazy Christian. I barely picked up a Bible, prayer was an annoying afterthought, and I only went to church if I felt like it, which was not often.

One day, my Anglican minister, David, made a suggestion. He said I should get baptized. I was appalled at the thought. Genuinely horrified. The exact words in my head were: “Baptism is something you Brits do to your babies — why are you talking to me about this?” I had seen infant baptisms on TV — was this fellow seriously suggesting wrapping me up in a white gown and dunking my head in a bowl?

Despite my recoiling, David persisted, and he showed me in Scripture where the baptism of adults took place. I was still unnerved by the whole thing. It sounded crazy. But David gently advised that I should make a decision: Accept the faith, all of it, or reject it. Eventually, I consented. And so, one quiet evening in March 1984, I found myself at the first baptism service I ever attended — my own. I still recall my bewilderment as I noticed the sprinkling of water falling from my head onto the pages of the service book in my hands and wondered, for a second, if I might get into trouble. I did not! And God honored that small act of obedience.

The Wilderness Year
Within days, even hours, of my baptism, I felt a restless urge to quit studying and “do something different.” (Only much later would I come to understand what it means to experience a baptism of the Holy Spirit.) After a few unsuccessful applications for jobs in Zambia and Kenya, I got a position lecturing at an engineering college in India.

I had grand ideas — mainly based on English college life — of what my sojourn in India would look like. However, it was nothing like that. The school, only partially built, was located in a remote part of the country. I was told to teach computing with no computers, and for several months I had a “laboratory” with nothing in it — just a bare room. Meanwhile, I lived in a small village outside the college town, in a humble dwelling with intermittent power, no running water, and scary wildlife — including “snakes and scorpions” (Luke 10:19) — wandering around outside.

Worst of all, I felt suddenly and terribly alone. Though eventually I made some truly great friends, those first few weeks were unbearably lonely. There was no church, and there were no other Christians. In short, I hated it. In the evenings, I could just see airplanes flying into the horizon toward distant lands. I dearly wished I was on board. There were frequent tears — I couldn’t understand what I was doing.

Later in my faith journey, I could see that this was a “wilderness” experience of the sort many other Christians have shared. It’s a model we receive from Jesus himself. Sometimes it is exactly what God needs to break through a hard heart.

After some weeks, I discovered a small fellowship that met in another town. Every Sunday morning, I would ride a jam-packed bus to get there, which involved struggling mightily just to climb aboard. This was hard but encouraging all at once. I remember distinctly hearing God say, “Chris, when your fellowship was a short walk down the road in England, you could not be bothered to go. Now you will fight to go.” I was broken, but I was also being remade.

Those surprised and wonderful Indian Christians welcomed me from the day they set eyes on me. Every Sunday became an entire day at their house, complete with meals, conversations, love, and support. During those months, with their help, I grew enormously in faith. I began devouring Scripture — sometimes for hours in a day — and I discovered a God who wanted me to depend on him, a God who knew me and spoke to me. A God who was not a six-month experiment.

That year included another unexpected blessing: a chance to travel north overnight and meet my previously unknown set of cousins, aunts, and uncles. They are Christian. (My mother had actually given up her nominal Christian faith when she married my Hindu father.) And they were able to introduce me to a much wider range of Indian church experiences.

At the end of that year, on my return to the UK, folks in that small Anglican church (who had also supported me through the year with letters and recordings) barely recognized me. “You’ve completely changed!” they would invariably say.

Incomprehensible Grace
Since then, I have married my lovely Christian wife, Alison (I think she also adopted me as a project!). We now have three wonderful daughters in their 20s. Around 10 years ago, while working in the telecommunications industry, I began training as a Baptist minister. Today, I help lead a small English church while keeping a part-time role in the tech world.

God has answered many prayers over the years, while leaving many others unanswered. We have endured our share of family crises, but in Christ I have an anchor in those storms. If you’re looking for an easy ticket through life, the Christian faith is not it. But if you want purpose, meaning, and direction, here is a narrative, a grand story, in which you have your own essential part to play. And most importantly, you get the incomparable privilege of intimately knowing the Author.

I should say that my mother’s driving ambition was also fulfilled. I ended up with a bunch of university degrees — I really hope it makes up for that day in the police station! But she got more than she bargained for, becoming a Christian during her own life crisis, after my father left us in my teens amid considerable family sadness. She passed away a few years ago as part of a loving, faithful congregation in that same small town where we grew up.

I don’t understand grace, even now. The Cross is appallingly unfair. I suspect I’ll never have it entirely figured out, at least in this lifetime. But I’m thankful that because of God’s grace, I can love Him and commit my life to Him even as He and his grace lie outside my capacity to fully understand.
____________________________________
Chris Goswami, PhD, is Associate Pastor at Lymm Baptist Church, Vice President of Communications at Enea Openwave. His writing appears on his website, 7minutes.net.

Hell Is Authentic


The result of living without Jesus is .  Not just a fantasy, not just a short-term separation from what is good.  It is a final loss, a final “mercy” of God to those who refuse any blessing.  He will not let an evil person go on hurting others into eternity, or even themselves; so He places them in outer darkness (Matthew 8:11-12), alone and apart from any source of light or life, because that is what they have chosen.  “All that are in hell choose it.  Without that self-choice, there could be no hell.  No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.  Those who seek find; to those who knock it is opened.” (C.S.Lewis, The Great Divorce)

If they would choose to know The God Who Is Here, anyone can enter into His Life, Light, Joy, Peace and every other blessing that comes from living in consistency with “the universe.”  There is only one way to know The God Who Is Here, and that is by getting to know Jesus, the Messiah, aka Christ.  “Now this is eternal life: that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.” (John 17:3)  There simply is no other way.  Father loves each one of us so much that if there was another way, He would inform us and provide us with the alternatives.  But THIS is the nature of the universe.  It is what He created and knowing Him is the only way. (Acts 4:10-12)

Like the Children of the Day sang, “Don’t try to drive the darkness out; You just turn on the light.”  Hell is the absence of light.  It is the absence of love.  It is the absence of community.  It is the absence of peace.  It is the absence of selfless joy.  It is the absence of life. 

Note, by that I do not mean the end of existence.  It that were the case, “hell” would not be all that bad.  If when we died we simply vanished into nothingness, there would be no reason for warning and inviting people to Life.  However, God created each of us, created YOU, to enjoy Him forever.  There is no Infinity Stone that can simply snap away our existence.  The gift of existence is without do-overs. (Romans 11:29)  We were created for eternity and “He has put eternity into man’s heart.”  (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

One of Job’s visitors described hell as the destiny of all those who do not know God, a dreadful place he calls the king of terrors.”  Hell will be a place of eternal death, because its inhabitants will be separated eternally from the Source of Life.  There, like the demons who believe and shudder (James 2:19), its occupants will hate God and the exposing light of his glory.  “It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to.” (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain)

Before Him “Every heart will melt, and all hands will be feeble; every spirit will faint, and all knees will be weak as water” (Ezekiel 21:7).  Just as the kings of the earth will call to the mountains and rocks, “Hide us from the face of Him who is seated on the throne” (Revelation 6:16), in hell God will give them what they want, a place of complete eclipse, darker than anything we can imagine. (Matthew 22:13; 25:29-30

As we have noted before (see ), anyone who longs for joy can find it.  Moses said in Deuteronomy 4:29, “If you will seek Yahweh your God, you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.” But this is not like trying to find Easter eggs, either in the yard under bushes, or a hidden message in a movie.  You do not have to scour the internet or decode mysterious anagrams or learn a particular language.  God is not hiding, making you wade through mazes or difficult terminology to find Him.  He makes Himself clear to anyone willing to see Him (Romans 1:19-22)  Further, He has revealed Himself throughout history via prophets, priests, church leaders and lastly through Jesus.

It would be nice if we could say those who go to hell will only stay there for a little while and then be granted entry into Heaven, kind of like an earthly prison sentence.  But remember those who go there go by their own choice because they do now want to live in God’s Kingdom; they refuse to live with someone else that is there; they object to His rulership.

So what awaits one who refuses to believe what God has revealed about Himself? 
“This is what Yahweh, the LORD, says:
“Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Pay attention to the sound of the trumpet!’
But they said, ‘We will not pay attention.’
Therefore hear, O nations, and know what will happen to them.
Hear, O earth; behold, I am bringing disaster upon this people,
    the fruit of their devices,
because they have not paid attention to my words;
    and as for my law, they have rejected it.…
Therefore this is what Yahweh says:
‘Behold, I will lay before this people a stumbling block against which they shall stumble;
fathers and sons together, neighbor and friend shall perish.’”
(Jeremiah 6:16-21)

You have this opportunity while you live. (Hebrews 9:27-28)  There is no guidance on making this decision after you die, and why would anyone refuse the Lord of Life now while they can learn to know Him before that time?  The choice is yours to make.  we will look a little more at the choice.

It’s All About ME!

2021-03-20 Self MagazineSelf-help, self-improvement, self-actualization, self-worth, Self Magazine, self-love.  There is even a Self-Help Credit Union and books about self-massage.  And don’t even get started on seminars and classes one can take for any of these endeavors.  Oprah, Deepak, Covey, Maxwell, Robbins, Dr. Phil and a plethora of others make a fortune every year from our need to “find ourselves” . . . as if you cannot look in a mirror and say, “Oh, there I am.”

2021-03-20 Rain is WetThe first thing to recognize about the “self” phenomenon that began in the 1970s is this foolish idea that we need “to learn to love ourselves.”  That’s as absurd as “trying to figure out if I am a man or woman.”  Hey, follow the “science” and look in your pants.  This is like trying to figure out if the sun is bright or if rain is wet.  The sun IS bright by its nature; by the way it was created and what it was created to be.  The rain IS wet because it is made of water, and by definition you cannot use water in “dry-cleaning;” otherwise the cleaning would be wet-cleaning.

Just as the sun is bright and rain is wet, we love ourselves.  This first principle is in Ephesians 5:29.  You can no more hate yourself than the rain can be dry.  So how do we understand negative thoughts and self-deprecation we often encounter?  We are always of two minds, and the “self-love” gurus never seem to understand this.

If the Bible is correct, and I would (and do) stake my life on it, we need to reorient our thinking to correctly assess what we understand to be self-hate.  I love myself, but sometimes I do things that I know are not good for me or others.  (See Romans 7:15-20.)  And the more I love myself AND understand that the thing I do is not good for me, the more I will hate what I do.  Too much of our pop psychology from the 1960s on to the present time misreads this spite for what I do as spite for my self, demonstrating a lack of critical analysis skills.  It also shows a significant misconstruction of the human mind.  Many professional psychiatrists and psychologists now have been fed lies about self-hate and graduated with this misunderstanding.

2021-03-20 Me Me MeThe social and cultural revolution that occurred in the 1960s carried over into the 70s with what Tom Wolfe called the “Me Generation” that was focused on examining our own belly buttons to the point that we lost sight of what it was to be a person.  And it has not become any better for newer generations.  Stare at the sun long enough and you will not see it anymore.  Stare at your own reflection in a mirror and you will lose sight of what really matters . . . for yourself and for others.

The saddest part of this is that some of the “self-help” stuff is right.  If you read some blogs or scan the web about self-love, there are some excellent guidelines for caring for others or living at peace, eating better food or disavowing racism.  Do these things and, yes, you will find yourself happier, more fulfilled and living healthier and better than ever.  But the question comes, is being happy the ultimate goal of my life?  “People who are entirely wrapped up in themselves make pretty small packages.” (Harry Emerson Fosdick, 1942)

The key consideration is motive.  Why do we do the things we do?  The Son of Man did not come to do His own will, but the will of His Father who had sent Him. (John 6:38)  God does not look on outward appearances as we do (1 Samuel 16:7), but looks at our motives.  When I indulge in self-help because it is good for ME, my motive is sinful, even if the action is good.  Even action that is self-sacrificial or self-deprecating is nothing more than banging a gong if the motive is only for me. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)  Even writing a brilliant blog (🙄) is of no value to the Kingdom of God if all I want is more followers and accolades of readers.

Separating our “selves” from what we do is almost impossible for us.  The concept is easy enough to understand: consider when you look at a beautiful painting or the Grand Canyon; when you smell a delicious New England Boiled Dinner about ready to be served; when you feel the warmth of a loving embrace; when you hear a philharmonic orchestra play a Beethoven symphony perfectly.  In all of these occasions we are somehow transported “out of ourselves” to a point of delight without focus on us.  Ideally, this is how we should live!  Not as a Buddhist in “absorption into the infinite” nor in a state of impersonal nirvana, and certainly not with a focus on how much “I enjoy” this.

Rather, there is a position of satisfaction in savoring something without “self-consciousness.”  It is not a place of hating oneself or of putting oneself down; nor is it a place of exalting oneself, of loving and caring for yourself over concern for others.  It is simply NOT thinking about yourself.

There is also a place of discomfort where we are concerned for someone else, worried for another’s well-being, hopeful for something for someone besides ourselves.  This is also a field of UN-self-consiousness. 

So where does that leave us?  Always coming before the Creator with humility and repentance for being less than He created us to be.  C.S. Lewis commented somewhere that we are either repenting of a sin, contemplating a sin, or committing a sin, this being our constant habit.  It would seem rather dismal except that whenever we are in that place of repentance, God lifts us out of our “selves” and gives us joy for the moments that we are UN-self-conscious.  And this comes because of His grace to us, His unmerited favor that the Holy God of the universe lavishes on us who are so unholy.

2021-03-20 RainingSo give up reading on “how to be happy,” forget about “finding yourself,” or “realizing your potential.”  No need to “Run The World.”  Most of all, lose any misconception about a need to love yourself more or more perfectly.  You can no more improve on your love for yourself than you can make rain any wetter.

Instead focus on Him, on His Presence, on His purposes.  Learn to know Him, not as an abstract idea or philosophy, but know Him as a person.  Granted, an infinite and undefinable person, but He is here and He is not silent.  It is NOT all about me . . . or you.

My Most Important Blog EVER

2021-01-30 News AnchorNews hits us faster than we can absorb it.  This began with television reporting back in the 60s and 70s of the last century.  The joke about our level of engagement came with a news anchor announcing, with a bright smile, “10 killed in hit-and-run on Broadway, film at 11.”

We are saturated 24/7, 1,440 minutes per day, with available information any time we look at our watches, phones or computers, most of which is unrelated to our daily lives, very little about which we can do anything, and most without consequence for any length of time, only lasting until the next broadcast or posting on social media.

But there IS something that matters, something integrally related to your life, something over which you have complete control, something that will last for all eternity: 
What will you do about the claims of Jesus, called the Christ? 

Jesus is the focal point of history, changing for over half the world the way we count the days of our lives ever since shortly after He walked on earth.  And He made some pretty audacious claims, so auspicious that I capitalize pronouns when I refer to Him.  Nothing particularly holy about capitalization, but simply to reflect that He is higher, better, greater (every positive superlative of which you can think) than any other human, past, present or future.

To understand who Jesus claimed to be one must read His biographies, which we call the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the first four books of the New Testament. (Many online sources are available and each one can be read in your native language in less than an hour; my favorite source is at Biblegateway.com where you can see if your language is listed.)

Even those who do not trust Him as what He claimed to be admit something unusual happened after He left the world, something that transformed His followers from meek and frightened, politically disenfranchised jellyfish to robust and daring defenders of what they had experienced.  What they experienced is recorded in Matthew 28, John 16 and 20, and Acts 1 and 2.  And all but one of them died rather than recant; only John survived to old age, but that was in exile on a prison island.

These disciples who had deserted Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, are next seen hiding in quiet rooms, afraid the High Priest, Sanhedrin or Roman authorities might be coming after them next.  Their political aspirations were dead, their leader had been crucified and the Jewish leaders had ensured that none of the disciples could steal His body.  They were confused and dismayed that the One they expected to lead Israel to international prominence, even over the Roman Empire, was dead and buried in a Roman-guarded sealed tomb.  How much worse could it get!?

But rather than getting worse, some women went to the grave in which Jesus was buried and found it empty, encountering angels who declared, He is not here, for He has risen!”  Mary Magdalene, hardly an archetype of integrity, did not believe the angels and came at first to announce to the disciples, who were cowering in their chamber, that the tomb was empty.  Two of the disciples, Peter and John, ran to the tomb to see for themselves and also found it empty.   But then Jesus met Mary Magdalene in the garden where His tomb was and showed her that He was alive!  A couple of others returned from Emmaeus and said they had seen Jesus alive!

In all of these encounters, the ones who knew Jesus best resisted the stories and did not understand the Old Testament scriptures and refused to believe tales of seeing Jesus.  They still could not think of the things He had taught them about His death!  It was just too much for a rational brain to take in . . . until He appeared to them in a locked room.  (They were still afraid and could not sort through the events that were happening faster than the Fall of the Berlin Wall in modern times.)   But when Jesus appeared to them, He showed them His wounds from the crucifixion and they finally believed.

So what did He claim about Himself? 
That He is the bread of life that came down from Heaven.
That He is the light of the world.
That He is the good shepherd.
That He is the resurrection and life.
That He is teacher and Lord.
That He is the way, the truth and the life.
That He is the true vine.
That He is not from this earth.
That He is King of the Jews.
That He is The I Am!  This is arguably His most significant claim to be God, as He claimed to be one with Father, the I AM.

2021-01-30 I AM

This short blog does not allow nearly adequate space for me to show you from the Bible all that it teaches of who Jesus is, but you are all intelligent and capable learned people.  Hey, you access a computer and blog! 😉  So do not take my word alone for this.  Read the Gospels and discover for yourself if you can trust this Jesus to be what He claimed to be.  What will you do?  You MUST do something, either admit these to be true or reject them to be false.  There is no middle ground.

If you believe, the next step is to receive HimJohn 1:12 says, “To all who receive him, who believe in his name, he gives the right to become children of God.”  Picture you came to my home and I offered to feed you dinner.  You could believe I was going to provide a meal; you could thank me for it; we could sit at the table together and talk about the food in front of us . . . but if you did not reach out and take the food, you would leave my home as empty as when you came.

So, first, reach out in your heart and mind to Jesus.  He is God and knows what is in your heart and thoughts even before you say it.  So invite Him to come and live in you.  Admit you are a sinner and have not let Him rule your life yet.  Turn away (repent) from your self-guided life and tell Jesus that you will trust Him to lead the rest of your life.  Do not worry that you are not perfect, or that you do not understand all this yet.  Simply trust Him that He will come live in you and begin to work in you to perform His will.  There are no special formulas for praying.  Just talk to Him as you would your own earthly father.

Secondly, if you decide to do this, the next step is to begin reading the Bible.  It is His directive to us, an ultimate guide for life and practice.  Do not be intimidated by the size (it is actually a library collection of small books; just take one at a time.)  There are numerous Bible-reading “plans” you can access, but just read!

Thirdly, if you talked with Jesus to invite Him to live in you, you have begun to pray.  Keep it up.  Again, there are lots of books and helps for praying, but remember, it does not take any special language.  Plus, as you get to know Jesus better (not just know about Him, but know HIM), you will find prayer is not just you talking to God.  In times of His choosing, He will talk to you!  Although the value of prayer cannot be measured by its volume, it can safely be said that prayer is valueless if you do not pray.  Make time to pray.

Lastly, God does not call “Lone Ranger Christians.”  Find a community of people who are seeking and experiencing the Presence of God.  Some will be phony; some will be misguided or misinformed; some will be manipulative; some will be dishonest; but you need them as much as they need you.  And as you pray and read the Bible, you will grow in grace and in knowledge of our Lord and your Savior, Jesus Christ.

Certainly, there is no requirement or expectation for you to contact me regarding your Journey into Faith, but if you want to contact me, please feel free to email me at capost3k@gmail.com.  No question is off limits.

Finally, let me assure you from many years of Bible study and examination of world religions from Atheism to Zoroastrianism, from Buddhism to Hinduism to Islam to Jainism, there is no intellectual reason for rejecting the claims of Jesus.  There is no text more authentically relayed to our generation than the Bible.  There is no way to get to know who God is, other than through the God-Man, Jesus.

Mortality

Maybe it is just the aches and pains of getting older; maybe I am reaching “that” age where more friends are leaving this world than staying here; maybe it’s because several friends have died in the last few weeks, and then Billy Graham headed “Home” after 99 years.  Billy quoted John Donne at Nixon’s funeral: “John Donne said that there’s a democracy about death. ‘It comes equally to us all and makes us all equal when it comes.’ ”

In any case, I am faced with my mortality and am embarrassed that it features so prominently in my thoughts.  Of course we will all die, and I do not fear it any more than other believers who have preceded me.  I do not look forward to becoming more forgetful, aching when I do things that used to be easy, perhaps trembling from Parkinson’s or suffering with cancer or some other terminal illness.  Like my mother, I sincerely do not wish to be a burden on others, particularly my family.

But the event of death, at the moment it arrives, is not something to fear if you know Jesus, and I am comfortable that His love will guide me through those last moments, whether they come quickly like on a crashing jet or from my wife driving in snow 😉 (January 14, 2015), or slowly as in a prolonged illness.

So I need to get my mind off my mortality and onto the mortality of those around me.  Like the young men I visit in the jail; like my neighbors who are even older than me; like my friends with terminal illnesses; like the young women from our church who are doing missionary work in South America for a semester before going to college; like the new pastor our church has invited to reach out to Millennials.

  1. So I say again, accept the fact that you will die (December 6, 2015); whether you are 12 or 92, someday your life on earth will end and for most, it will feel like it was too short.
  2. Then make plans for your death.  Set your affairs in order so that if some idiot drives through a red light and sends you Home in a time you consider too early, your husband or wife or other family members will not have enormous difficulty sorting through your last wishes wondering what you would want done.  Talk about it.  Talking will not change the date nor its inevitability. (February 4, 2018)
  3. Most importantly, Billy Graham said, “make an appointment with God.”  Remember that you are immortal (July 24, 2017).  Even after you die you will continue to exist . . . and for a lot longer than you lived here.   Become one of those so few for whom eternity is constantly present, where Heaven is only one breath away.

With Billy Graham I can say about death, “I’ll be happy the day the Lord says, ‘Come on. I’ve got something better planned.’ ”

He Is! – 5. Disciplines of a Spirit-Led Life: Bible Reading and Study

Here is a man, Rear Admiral Barry Black, who knows God’s word.  This discipline is evident in his knowledge and delivery of Biblical truth in a very challenging setting: a National Prayer Breakfast, attended by many of different nationalities, different religious systems, different political parties, different world views.  Yet, he unapologetically affirms Who is in charge of kings’ hearts.  Here is a man who knows This Man in God’s word.

If you do not have 27 minutes for the entire sermon, listen at least to the last three and one-half minutes.  Scroll to 23 and tune in!

The exploration of the Bible is a life-long endeavor.  Talk to an old saint in a church who has a living relationship with Jesus and he or she will be able to tell you of new discoveries made in recent weeks in reading and studying the Bible.

Recall, the Bible is not just one book , but a small library of 66 books, most of which are very short.  The longest ones (except for Psalms) can be read in just a few hours in your “heart language,” that is the language in which you dream.

A more challenging project, but well worth the time and effort, is to read each book at a single sitting.  This takes some planning, because longer books such as Numbers or Isaiah may take a several hours due to unfamiliar content or length, but in my NIV, Numbers is just 55 pages and Isaiah is only 108 pages.  Many of the books are just a few pages long.

The point of reading each book (except for Psalms and Proverbs) at a single sitting is to get a clear overview of what the text says.  This can help avoid taking verses out of context and misusing the Bible to “prove one’s point of view.”  It allows the Bible to establish “the view” and lines us up with it, rather than coming to the book with a point of view and trying to establish that by forcing it on the Bible’s book.  Psalms and Proverbs are special exceptions to this idea, because of their content and organization, which makes reading each at a single sitting less valuable than reading these “devotionally.”

I have addressed Bible reading and study more thoroughly in previous blogs listed below, and introduced one of them with this caveat: “A Man (or Woman) of God will live a life Marked By Bible Reading and Study.  Be sure and understand, knowledge about God is not the same as knowing God.  This is an important distinction to make because far too many people think that because they can quote volumes of Scripture or name all 66 books of the Bible or discuss theology like a . . . well, a theologian, that they know God.”

So begin now, reading each day just three chapters of the Old Testament and one of the New Testament, and you can easily read the entire library of the Bible in 2017.  Along with this, plan for 66 times sometime during this year, to read each of the books at a single sitting.  And consider setting some time aside to really study some of the Bible’s literature.  It has some of the most exciting adventure stories, better than Marvel comics or Star Wars!  It’s love stories put Danielle Steele to shame.

Okay, some of it can be boring, like reading catalogues, but study of it can make even these parts come alive, when you realize what God was doing in the course of history!  So get a good commentary (free online!), and some literature helps and dive into a book that can give you eternal life, because it will testify about Him.  You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.”  (John 5:39)

See January 25, 2015, April 6, 2015, April 12, 2015, about this same subject, as well as April 26, 2015,  and May 17, 2015 and its following blogs on the Reliability of the Bible, ending with June 28, 2015.

So if you want to know “This Man” of the Bible, read it, study it, memorize it, meditate on it, live it, and get to know Him in times of prayer.

Next week, February 12, 2017, we’ll look away from these inward disciplines, to begin to view some of the outward Disciplines of the Spirit-led Life.