God More Skeptical of Humans Than Ever Before

I read the headline on Drudge with amusement: Americans More Skeptical of God than Ever Before. I had to laugh. And laugh. And chortle. And maybe even snicker. All these surveys measuring human belief in God, and not a single one measuring God’s belief in humans.

According to the article in vocativ.com, in previous studies it was assumed that people were losing trust in organized religion, but were still pretty spiritual (whatever that means) in private. Now the researchers are thinking that people’s faith in God is declining, public or private.

I don’t have any trouble believing that people are fading. Selfishness is at an all time high, judging from observation. We buy Bibles at record rates, but our actions indicate we must be using them to prop up a broken couch leg or to hold our porn collection more securely on the bookshelf. We aren’t reading it, and we certainly aren’t doing what it says either.

Which begs the question: what does God think about us? We know He’s a God of love, or at least we hope He is, even to the extent that we hope He will always love us no matter what we do. So we keep doing it. But I don’t think that He loves unrighteousness at all. And for those who practice it He has a very dark, hot place all prepared.

Is this the falling away or rebellion that is spoken of by the Paul (2 Thessalonians 2:3)? The whole world knows about God, but doesn’t know God? Without a doubt, in my opinion, yes.

I think we have turned God into a cosmic sugar daddy, and if He doesn’t deliver the goodies we turn away. Many of us only worship Him because of what they think they can get (health, wealth, etc.) and when they don’t get it they throw a temper fit. They wonder why God allows evil to continue, never questioning their own part in refusing to obey His Laws and causing the evil in the first place.

God doesn’t want anyone to perish, but at the same time He knows many will insist. He is losing His patience, I think, and for the sake of those who really believe in Him, evidenced by actions consistent with His Word and Law, He will be cutting things short very soon. Just because people lose faith in Him doesn’t mean He will leave those few who don’t out in the cold. But He’s very skeptical about those who are falling away.

Do unbelievers matter to God? I’ve got to say, I don’t think they matter very much to God at all.

Shalom
Bruce

What If God Were A Linebacker?

Hey there sports fans, time for a reprint of an article I wrote a while back thinking about God as a linebacker. Definitely wouldn’t get picked last!

Can you imagine if God was a linebacker on an opposing football team you were playing? If you were a quarterback, would you want to try and pump fake? You certainly couldn’t fake a hand off, and you couldn’t fool Him with misdirection or a man in motion. You could never check off on the line and audible a change in the play. No matter what you changed it to, He would know. Maybe you could hand off to the running back, but where would he go? How would you pass to the dump-off receiver if the other receivers were covered? Even if the receivers had moves that made a ballerina cry, wherever they went God would be standing there in front of them waiting for the ball. You wouldn’t want to try a long snap for a punt or a field goal because He would probably be fast enough to intercept that, too.

Blocking would be a problem, to say the least. Even if He stood still long enough or slowed Himself down so you could get a hand on Him, you wouldn’t stand a chance of stopping Him. He’d be in the backfield holding the quarterback up by the legs quicker than you could say, “make a wish.” Facing Him across the line of scrimmage would be no picnic. He wouldn’t even have to insult your mother or cast aspersions on your ancestry to intimidate you. If He just smiled at you you’d have to change your shorts (again). He’d always know the snap count, and could beat you off the ball like you had roots. He’d plug any hole you opened for the running back, if He felt like letting the running back get that far. If He were to hit you, you might even live to tell about it after all the bells stopped ringing.

What would His stats be? Ten feet tall, weighing 600 pounds and running the 40 in “we didn’t even get the stopwatch started?” Would He be able to bench press His own weight? With each hand? Each finger? Without even breaking a sweat? Would He even sweat? Would His cleats leave marks you could plant trees in? But He wouldn’t need cleats, because wherever the ball went He’d already be there. He’d give a whole new meaning to the saying “He got skills.”

Or maybe He’d just be an undersized rabbi, not much to look at. Maybe He wouldn’t even “hit” very hard, especially if you were having a bad day. He’d just somehow manage to “move through the crowd” and be wherever the ball was, frustrating you to no end. You might wonder how He moved so fast in those robes He wore, but you wouldn’t even think about making fun of Him for wearing a dress. You’d probably want to knock that silly little cap off His head, but He wouldn’t hold still long enough to let you. He’d just smile and pat you on the back and say, “Keep on trying, my son!”

How would His contract be structured? Would He even need the money? Shoot, the team owner probably wouldn’t need all those other high priced defensive players, so you could give Him at least all the money for the other ten guys that used to be on defense. He would never get an injury (like anybody could hit Him hard enough!), so He wouldn’t need backups, and you could give Him all that money too. The other teams might even chip in money if they didn’t have to play against Him!

If He played “iron man” (iron God?) football (both offense and defense) all that money could go to His salary too. You wouldn’t need trainers, medical supplies, equipment to cool Him off, or equipment to warm Him up. He could probably play without pads or a helmet. You wouldn’t need coaches, front office personnel, or draft picks to be named later. You wouldn’t even need the draft because He lives forever!

Really though, who would play against Him? Would you have to draft Satan and all his demons? I bet they wouldn’t even enter the draft. They know better; they played against Him in college and got hammered. He made a show of them openly, and since then they haven’t been able to show their faces in public. And that was when they had the game rigged, the officials bought and paid for, and God was playing with injuries. No way would they attempt a contest where He didn’t have a sizeable handicap. But even if He looked handicapped they would still be suspicious, because of the beating they took before when they thought they had Him nailed.

Maybe He would only have to play one game a season. Would we just hand Him the Super Bowl trophy (and all the money) at the beginning of the season? Or would the other teams play each other, with the “winner” having to play the team with God on it? Wouldn’t that make the games more interesting! Imagine how desperate your team would be to lose! Ow, ow, ow, my hamstring suddenly acted up! To heck with the money, just don’t make me play against God in the Super Bowl! Or any Bowl for that matter!

How would the gamblers handicap the games? Who would bet? Even Satan wouldn’t be that stupid. The whole gambling industry for football would be wiped out. Not a dollar to be made anywhere, nobody going to the poor house for making sucker bets. Louie the leg breaker would be out of a job because nobody would need to be “encouraged” to pay gambling debts. Sports related crime would evaporate. No games to fix, no referees to buy, no players to corrupt. The television contract would be worthless, nobody would bid on it. The advertising dollars would have to be spent somewhere else.

Baseball would be shut down too, because God would have enough energy and skills to play both sports. Heck, He could probably play four or five sports every year and still not get tired. All that money would be His for the taking, that is, until people quit going to the games. Who would pay hundreds of dollars to see a game with their families when they already know who would win? We wouldn’t need to build stadiums or maintain them, and billions of dollars could be saved on freeway modifications to handle all the traffic. There would be more open space and we could plant more trees (in His cleat marks if He had cleats).

And the endorsements! Would you see His picture on a box of Wheaties? Would Mormon-owned Coke and secular Pepsi play “Can you top this?” until a new monetary record was reached? Or would He be shunned because He was pro-life, anti-gay, and didn’t celebrate Christmas? Do you think He could be induced to allow beer and automobile makers the rights to use His image for Budweiser or Ford? I can’t imagine Him leaping in the air for joy at the thought of owning a Toyota. Who would argue against Him if He said it was less filling? What would happen if He merely said He preferred not to drink beer? Would the beer industry immediately go out of business because no one would buy it? He certainly wouldn’t need money, so what else would they use to get Him to sign?

Maybe kids would idolize Him by plastering His posters all over their bedrooms. Would they want to play the same position? Would they even play sports knowing they could never beat Him or beat Him out of His position? Maybe they would start to walk like Him, dress like Him, and talk like Him. They would probably want to know what He ate and what His favorite TV shows were so they could be “just like” Him. Perhaps the whole kid’s sports structure would disappear. Soccer Moms would be a thing of the past. Parents wouldn’t have to pay all that money, scream, or kill each other over a child’s game. Test scores would go up, and athletes would have to actually work for their grades and plan on a productive career in something useful, like say, teaching.

Maybe, if He were here in physical form, playing linebacker, a lot of things would change. Maybe, the world would be a better place, with money spent on more important things. Maybe, we would see the folly of our ways. Maybe, just maybe………nya-a-a-ah.

Shalom
Bruce Scott Bertram

The Testing of Jesus

At the stoning of the woman caught in adultery, did Jesus teach that the Law was gone, or did He criticize because the Law was not followed? Did Jesus eliminate the Law as popular church teaching suggests, or did He disapprove of the mishandling of God’s living oracles? I think in each question it is the latter. When Jesus was tested, He stayed with the Law while His opponents stuck with their own interpretations and traditions. His opponents were wrong in nearly every case.

Jesus never tells us that “we all sin” so none of us can judge. What He tells us is that to judge properly we need to stay within the whole of His Law. The people testing Jesus wanted permission to sin. They wanted certification for their self-appointed authority. But they didn’t want God’s Law. See the video for more details.

Shalom
Bruce

In Peter’s Place, What Would I Say?

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Matthew 16:21–23, ESV)

I was thinking about this event today, and I wondered what I would say had I been in Peter’s place. Pete was motivated by a desire to protect Jesus from the authorities, not quite realizing yet the full extent of who Jesus was and why He was going to have to suffer. Peter’s motives were perhaps “good,” but they were wrong. So wrong in fact that Jesus rebuked the person behind the statement (Satan) who had motivated the response of “This shall never happen to you.” Not only does this show that motives, even if we would classify them as “good,” can still be wrong, but it shows us that motive alone is not enough. We need to be in line with God’s will in order for even “good” motives to be actually good.

The thing that really got me with this situation though is that, knowing what I know now, what would I have said? Could I have looked into the eyes of the most humble, loving man ever and said, “If you don’t die I cannot live?” Would I have been able to say to God almighty that, “We need to get you to Jerusalem when it is time so that your miserable death can save the whole world?” Knowing that He is my Lord and Savior, God in the flesh, perfect and without shadow of turning in every way, could I have encouraged Him to suffer a vastly painful, torturous and ignominious death at the hands of murderers in exchange for my ugly, pitiful, sin-filled life? Would I have had the faith to trust and obey God’s will in this matter?

I don’t know. Jesus had to die, but woe to the people who did it, and woe to those who refuse to accept what He did. I thank Him every day and in every way I can think of for His sacrifice by reading every Word from Him and putting it everywhere in my life. He asks so little of me. Living the whole of His Word is such a small thing to do for a God who died such a huge death for me.

Shalom

Draw Near

If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. (Exodus 12:48, ESV)

If any one term is the closest to the reason I follow the whole Bible, this is it. The term I’m speaking of is “come near.” In my view this is what Torah is all about. The term can be used for simply getting together (if we are talking about a pair or group of people), but when one of the parties is God it takes on a whole different character. We can “come near” God for judgment as in Malachi 3:5, or we can come near in love and intimacy. A similar term is “draw near.”

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:8, ESV)

We “draw near” to God as we do what He says. The more we do, the closer we get. In humility we use His living oracles to wash the parts of us that get dirty. Though He has cleansed us wholly, we still need to wash occasionally.

Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” (John 13:10, ESV)

We are clean, but we still need to wash some in order to continue “drawing near.” Notice that Jesus did the foot washing during the Passover meal. Jesus continues to wash our feet by the washing of the Word as we “draw near” to Him through His commands. There is a continual cleansing by His Law because we are in a dirty world and sometimes we step in something odoriferous that needs to be removed. If we judge (cleanse) ourselves and wash our hands (or feet) then Jesus doesn’t have to judge us. His eye is on us for good and not for evil.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you. (Psalm 32:8–9, ESV)

Shalom

Distractions Part Five, A Split God

“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! 5“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5 NASB95)

 

We have to talk about God being One because a main tool used to distract from, eliminate or severely prune the Law is to cast it as a different message from another God. It’s as if Jesus and the Father were two separate gods kind of at loggerheads with each other. If a person wants to dodge the Law he can pretend it came from someone who either changed His mind or didn’t mean what He said in the first place. We also have to talk about this because there is a big group of people who advocate for the Law in a believer’s life yet deny the deity of Jesus.

 

You may already accept that God and Jesus are one, but you may not realize exactly what it means. The church tends to skip over that part. For instance, if God and Jesus are one, then Jesus gave the Law at Sinai. So when He tells us in Matthew 28 to teach the disciples “all I commanded,” it includes the Law that He “filled up full” or fulfilled.

 

guernica

 

A cubist painting looks like it has been cut up and put back together out of order. You know, the nose is where the ear is supposed to be, and the eyes are not lined up. Every part is out of place (Like Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica,” pictured above). The picture of God painted by the modern church now looks sort of cubist. God is variously described as a fierce, distant and unfriendly god, or a buddy from out of town who winks at sin. He’s either a god of cloud and flame and lightening, or a pacifist hippie flower child who spouts one-liners about peace and love.

 

We use artistic license like cubism to interpret the patterns in the Word and make a picture that doesn’t even resemble the original. One pattern is for Jews and another is for the church. This part is for me and that part is for you. There are “old” and “new” god models. The old god is supposed to be a severe, demanding god of bloody sacrifices and death. The new god is a sweet guy who looks the other way when we sin. The old god beat us up with rules we couldn’t obey and restricts what we eat. The new god came to change all the stuff the old god gave us, and died so we could eat a ham sandwich. We have created, as Dr. Michael Brown says, a “worldly, cultural Christianity” with a “Jesus who radically empowers us” rather that a “Jesus who radically changes us.” I agree with him that “that’s why we have ‘Christian’ lingerie models and ‘Christian’ rappers who frequent strip clubs.”

 

The picture of God is critical to faith. When we paint Him as capricious, powerful and judgmental, giving us laws we could never obey, we can’t trust Him or do what He says. On the other hand when we paint Him with the color of sentiment (without justice or holiness) our false picture might let us do what we want even if it kills us. But it isn’t love.

 

From the book Whole Bible Christianity a draft of which is available to read at www.wholebible.com/Whole_Bible_Christianity.htm

Distractions Part Three, Names

This distraction is sort of a part of the “Hebrew only” distraction I talked about earlier. A section of people who are trying to follow Torah (the Law) as part of their walk with Jesus don’t like to use the name Jesus. They prefer the Hebrew version, Yeshua. But how much of this is a desire to honor God, and how much is simply pretentious?

 

On the one hand, it is right to call someone by their correct name. I get called Bert every once in a while and I correct the speaker right away. We all do this. So it makes sense to try and call Jesus by His “correct” name. Problem is, He’s got a lot of “correct” names, names which are also titles, and His names also are translated into different languages.

 

Yeshua is a variant of Yehoshua (Joshua) and means “YHWH saves” or “YHWH is salvation.” Jesus is the English version of the Greek transliteration (probably from Yeshua) Iesous (ee ay sooce). Many times a word or name in one language is hard to say in another language. For instance, in Judges 12:5-6 the word Shibboleth was used to find people of Ephraim who couldn’t enunciate the ‘h’ and said Sibboleth instead. Japanese people (or maybe Asians in general) have a hard time with the letter ‘L’ and say ‘R’ instead. Sometimes a name or word has to be translated because of pronunciation difficulties. After all, we are still suffering from the effects of the confusing of languages at the Tower of Babel. My last name is in a British form, but it also has a Spanish form, a French form, and I’m sure there are others too.

 

Jesus has many names and titles. He liked “the Son of Man” (85 times in the gospels) as a title or description Himself (used quite a bit for Ezekiel). When He comes back, He will have a name no one knows.

 

His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. (Revelation 19:12, ESV)

 

We are going to get a new name eventually too. One that means something instead of just a collection of sounds as most modern names are.

 

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’ (Revelation 2:17, ESV)

 

I prefer to use words that other people can understand. Names are important, but sometimes we make a big deal out of them for reasons other than communicating a Bible message. If I had to pick another name for Jesus, I prefer Immanuel which means “God with us,” because it is used fewer times (so is more unique) and only for the Messiah in the Bible. It is also a direct pronunciation (im maw noo ale) for the Hebrew. Jesus is not a bad name, it’s just a different form for Yeshua. As Paul said, “I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Corinthians 14:19). This applies to other thinks too, such as the name of Jesus.

The Promise is the Unity

It’s easy to say the Bible is written around the unifying theme of Jesus, but it might be a little difficult to see exactly where He is sometimes. Words are used such as “promise” and “covenant” (essentially a promise too). But sometimes even those key words are absent such as in Genesis 3:15 when God promises (without using that word) a descendant who will crush the head of the serpent. Abraham was “promised” (using the word “covenant” instead) that this descendant would be from a child born to Sarah, who would “bless the nations.” Later on Isaac was called the “son of the promise” by Paul in places such as Romans 9:9 and that thought is tied with the “seed of Eve” all through the Bible. David was included in the promise. God said he would have a son who would sit on his throne in a kingdom that would last forever. This promised son and blessing was part of the gospel (good news) preached to Israel at Sinai (Hebrews 4:2). The Law was part of the promise because it lays out behavior expected by God as He takes up residence according to the promise. He took up residence in Israel and expected certain actions, and as He takes up residence now in believers those expectations have not changed.

 

If the Bible really is “one faith” (chapter 4) delivered to “one body” (chapter 3) by “one God” and “one Lord” (chapter 2) as Paul says in Ephesians 4 then the next question is “Why aren’t we (the church) following it?” If the New Covenant is the Law written on a heart of flesh, then it seems some biblical practices are being ignored by those who are supposed to have this covenant as their operating document. If the Bible really is one continuous, unified message (and it is) with no breaks or stops and starts or new bodies created then the next step is to grab hold and put it into every area of life. Not just as a novelty or for some chuckles once in a while but hungering and thirsting for it as if His Word was a treasure hidden in a field or a pearl of great price. I know I’m mixing metaphors but you get my drift.

 

All the books of the Bible were written by people who understood the continuity of this promise from God and included continuous revelation from God as to how this promise would be realized. All the believers throughout the ages who accepted God’s Word looked forward to the delivery of the promise and its full implementation. The first century church lived all of it. When we throw out parts of the Word, whether we dismiss them as merely “civil” or “ceremonial” shadows or “fulfill” them and terminate them, we destroy the unity and continuity of His living oracles. The promise (or promises since there are other parts to the promise) cannot be seen, hoped for, or realized as well as it could. Like a guitar with a string missing, or a violin without a bow, if we remove any part of His Word the gospel and the promises of God are reduced to a limited discordant series of feel-good proverbs lacking the power to move us as they are intended.

Two Lambs

“Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two lambs a year old day by day regularly. One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight. (Exodus 29:38–39, ESV)

 

A regular sacrifice was instituted by God at least by the time of Exodus 29:38 of two lambs, one in the morning and one in the evening. This probably was to keep the sacrifice of the Christ before the Lord on a consistent basis. But another intriguing possibility is it speaks of the way the Messiah will come two times, or come in two different ways. In the gospels He comes as a meek lamb to the slaughter, and takes on the sin of the world in the process. At the end of the Tribulation the lamb comes back as a triumphant conqueror and “takes on” the sin of the world in a different way.

 

While slaughter is still in view it’s not the Lamb that gets it this time. It’s His enemies. Two different Greek words are used (Strong’s 286 ἀμνὸς amnos John 1:29; Strong’s 721 ἀρνίου arnion Revelation 22:3) which both mean lamb but from the context one (amnos) seems to be the meek Lamb and the other (arnion) is the conquering Lamb.

 

The meek Lamb took on the sin of the word and offers forgiveness of that sin to anyone who believes. By His stripes they are healed. He will wipe away every tear of those and give them a place He has prepared for them in glory. The conquering Lamb will destroy the ones who reject His gracious offer. The blood will flow to the depth of a horse’s bridle and birds of the air will feast on the carcasses. At the end of a thousand years His enemies will be resurrected only to be thrown into the lake of fire.

 

Which Lamb do you want to meet?

Childbearing salvation

One of the more puzzling verses in the Word is directed at Timothy by Paul in what some refer to as a pastoral epistle.

 

Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. (1 Timothy 2:15, ESV)

 

It seems that Paul is saying that women can be saved through having kids. I’ve heard a lot of teaching connected with this, mostly focusing on the second part of the verse (faith, love, holiness, self-control) but also trying to work in how women are saved by having kids. I’ve tried to understand it myself by going with that teaching and thinking that perhaps the discipline of actually having kids (it is very difficult to bear children in case you didn’t know) was somehow helpful for learning salvation. Sort of going along with “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). But I could never really make it fit with my understanding of other parts of the Word, such as that salvation is by grace through faith.

 

I recently read a different take on this by Dr. Walter Kaiser in the book The Promise Plan of God. He says that we should think of this as the act of childbearing as in the fact that the Son of God was birthed by a woman. Salvation came to the world because a woman bore a child. Paul was trying to elevate women because of the gift of bearing children, contrasting their poor treatment at the time (which continues to the present time) with the godly point that they should be honored instead. Yes, Eve was deceived, but a woman was given the privilege of birthing our Messiah Jesus.

 

Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. (1 Corinthians 11:11–12, ESV)

 

Paul is encouraging godliness by acknowledging faults in both genders and at the same time pointing out equal blessings from God. We are not independent; we are interdependent. We each have different jobs, we are made differently (thank you Jesus!) but one gender is not inferior to the other. Women are not property, they are sisters in the household of God and have equal standing with men before God. The childbearing gift was how God chose to bring the Messiah to us, and should not be discounted. Women are saved through the act or gift of childbearing, because our salvation Jesus came to us by way of a woman.

 

An interesting proposition, and one that fits better with the rest of Scripture than any others I’ve heard so far. It’s probably an old teaching in some places, but it’s the first I’ve heard of it.

 

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:4–5, ESV)